Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Making the Rounds

I have nothing in particular to say, this fine Tuesday evening, so I will point to various people who do have something to say.

David Bordwell, as usual, has something interesting on top opf the page: an illustration of "intensified continuity" using The Shop Around the Corner and You've Got Mail as texts...

Girish offers a fascinating rumination on memorizing movies, along with a collection of links (mostly to coverage of the recently concluded Cannes film festival) - and a lovely illustration of Au Hasard Balthasar by Seth.

And another reminder why I don't watch American Idol - it inspires loathsome morons to opine loathsomely - take a look at the clip at Majikthise - one MeMe Roth pontificating that finalist Jordin Sparks should lose because she's too fat. I see she won: maybe this will make MeMe see the error of her ways and sit back, relax, crack open a pint of Chunky Monkey, and stifle.

And - Charles Nelson Reilly has died. How much of my youth was driven by trying to guess whether he or Brett Somers would make the "tinkle" joke this afternoon? For such a shitty show, it's amazing how much I miss seeing him on TV every day.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Another Musical Extravaganza

Once more, this weekend, this long weekend, we come to a random ten post. Oddly, not the only post of the week! Amazing productivity by my standards, 2-3 posts in a week. Anyway - here goes this one....

1. Red Crayola - Come on Down
2. Captain Beefheart - Crazy Little Thing
3. B-52s Strobe Light **** -
4. Devendra Banhardt - Rejoicing in the Hands
5. Fugazi - Burning
6. The Iguanas - Again & Again
7. Bruce Springsteen - Atlantic City ****
8. Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers - Born to Lose
9. Bloc Party - Positive Tension
10. Modest Mouse - Teeth Like God's Shoeshine ***

Nice collection there - fewer stars than you might think, though it's a lot of good songs by great bands, songs maybe buried down in the middle of the record...

For video? Let's go with Bloc Party, channeling The Fall, mostly, in this instance (they're always channeling someone, usually The Cure, I think...), but doing well. As an 80s tribute band, they're one of the best:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Do I look like I'm joking?

I wish I had written this last week. This is what the misunderstood blogathon was made for. I was thinking about it, reading this defense of Batman Forever - I was thinking, you're defending Batman Forever? - ho hum; I am going to defend Batman and Robin! Now that's some contrarianism, there! But I couldn't really think of a reasonable defense of the film - at least nothing misunderstood: all I've really got is, Uma Thurman is funny as hell! Is that enough?

But there's something in that Sophomore Critic post:
Furthermore, It's important for everyone to realize that since Batman's creation in what I believe was the 1920s, there have been two parallel versions of Batman going on. One is the "dark knight" Batman, the mysterious force of good who no one knows about, and then there's the "camp" batman, who's more family-friendly, and more colorful, put it that way, his costume has blues and purples in it, rather than just plain black.
(There's quite a bit more - some nice comments on the differences between types of Batman, and Robin's place in the scheme.) That's a nice statement of the opposition between the Dark Batman and the Camp Batman - a common theme to commentary on the films, in particular. And I remembered it when the shots of the Heath Ledger as the Joker started turning up - to great enthusiasm in the blogosphere. With a certain level of disdain for Jack's Joker being expressed - these days, the Dark Batman gets a lot more love than the Camp Batman.

But let me point out: Sophomore Critic refers to Batman Returns as one of the Dark Batman stories. He's not the first - the Burton films were originally pushed as heirs to The Dark Knight Returns, not to Adam West. That happened even as they were dominated by their campy villains and black-comedy scripts - the aspects that survived (and were extended) in the Schumacher films. The truth is, Burton's Batmans straddle the two sides of Batman, Dark/Camp. And so do I. Unlike a lot of the Batman fans I've known through the years, I like both: Miller's book is outstanding - some of the other stories in that vein, like Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, might be even better. But the TV show is better still - eye-popping colors and absurd dialogue and goofy plots and villains and West's dead pan - it's up there with the best TV has to offer, not far off the standard set by Get Smart or Police Squad (how did that only last 6 episodes? Lord).

This is what I think (and why this should have been for the misunderstood blogathon): posing the Dark Batman against the Camp Batman is itself a misunderstanding of the power and importance of both. The real opposition should be between the Dark and Camp Batman, on one side, and the straight, "heroic" Batman on the other. The real opposition should be between the ironic forms of Batman and the unironic forms.

Here I speak a bit from faulty memory, but I believe for much of its run, at least early, Batman was a fairly straightforward heroic comic. Batman the character was not a joke - nor was he a twisted weirdo or tormented vigilante. Both tendencies get some play, with the noirish tones making the most impression in the early works, and the silliness becoming excessive later - but mostly, it's pretty straightforward good guys and bad guys.

Both the Camp Batman and the Dark Batman ironize this. The Dark Batman tends to add a twist to the story - instead of a straightforward protector of the innocent, Batman becomes a bit sinister. Driven by vengeance, violent and cruel, solitary and haunted - he becomes fearful, himself, constantly in danger of lsipping over. Or, a variation of this - the world around him is made utterly corrupt, irredeemable - and his place is as one able to master the evil and corruption in himself, and turn it to fighting evil in the world. He becomes something of a necessary outlaw - only outlaws can fight crime effectively, this version goes. He has to be almost a crook himself to fight crime... These kinds of stories make plain their relationship with the "straight" Batman: sometimes by variations on the stories, though, interestingly, often by opposing Batman to Superman - that's Miller's take, for instance. Though he also twists Superman - but the basic idea is of Batman as a dark knight, vs. Superman as the fairly unambiguous conventional hero. Batman as flawed - Superman as superhuman.

Now - the Camp Batman has it easier: those stories get to make fun of the conventions of crime-fighting and superheroes directly. They also make fun of the aura of dread and fear in the Dark Knight stories, and all the supercriminals, the conspiracies, the terrible secrets of those stories. And - at some level, as comedy is wont to do - they undermine the desire for order that underlies the Dark Batman stories. Since - no matter how terrible things are, no matter how chaotic - they suggest there's a reason for the bad things, a unifying force to the pain and suffering in the world. Not just people being dicks, which, when you get down to it, is what comedy argues. This is, of course, one of the reasons comedy (including satire, irony, parody, and other meaner types of comedy) is superior to other art forms. Most of the evil in the world does come down to people being dicks. But even with this opposition to the Dark Knight type stories, there is kinship. The world of Heroic Batman is a world that can make sense - it is possible, through hard work and effort, to make things right. Dark Batman stories say no - the world is corrupt to the core - all you can do is hold the evil at bay for a while (usually at great sacrifice). There is a desire for order, and conspiracy theories and supervillains and the like project an imaginary order on the world - but it is not, really, there. And the Camp Batman stories deny the possibility of order, at least, some transcendent order, something that explains it all. Beyond, maybe, the fact that people are going to be dicks about it.

But getting back to cases: what makes the Tim Burton Batman films so wonderful - is that they do both: they have the horror, the dread, the ugliness, the angst and madness in hero and villain alike - and they are funny: and they make their villains campy, ironic, superior - The Joker and the Penguin both spend a lot of time outside the story - they manipulate the story - they are artists (as the Joker insists) - they are in on the joke. This tendency goes overboard in the Schumacher films - with some of the edge lost. It stays funny - at least Carrey and Thurman are funny, mostly because they are so good (the scripts aren't much) - but they're different. They're in on the joke, but the joke is all there is. Which, if the films were better made, would be more than enough - but it still missed the degree to which the different sides of Batman beling together. It is a dark character - but the darkness works even better when it is tied to the basic absurdity of the whole affair. Burton combined them, and his films remain the standards for the franchise, and I don't see that changing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Scattered Gleanings

I should do this more often...

Girish points to an interview with Chris Fujiwara and Mark Roberts on crime films: a wealth of material to digest there...

David Bordwell, meanwhile, takes on one of those questions that circle the internet - do sequels suck? He's too dignified to phrase it so, but I have no dignity. His answer? A roundtable discussion of sequels, historical, aesthetic - praise the lord!

Do I want to dip into politics? or social criticism or some such a thing - Garance Franke-Ruta digging in deeper in defending an extraordinarily bad idea about how to control shit-bag pornographers of the Joe Francis ilk: raise the age of consent for participating in erotic imagery. The reasons this is a bad idea are legion, from what it says about the agency of young women, to the ease with which Ms. Franke-Ruta slides from "participating in the making of erotic imagery" to "participating in pornography" - how old was Margo Stilley when Nine Songs was shot? Such distinctions matter to the cinephiles among us. Instead of addressing the many arguments raised against her proposal, she calls her distractors "leering louts" and rants against Joe Francis (not that there's anything wrong with that). Lance Mannion, singled out for his "lechery", responds.

And finally - Eszter Hargittai's post at Crooked Timber about her blogging history sends us down memory lane. And - looking at her 2002 blog, I see an interesting link on the side: "blogathon03" - the link is dead, but through the miracle of google we find - blogathon 2003 - an odd reminder that the word has been around a while. Outside the film blogiverse, it's used more like the "real world" of marathons and walkathons and telethons and such - in this case: staying up blogging for 24 hours for charity. I remembered that, in fact, in the back of my mind - and if I'd clicked on all the links in Filmsquish's excellent history of the blog-a-thon, I'd have been reminded sooner... but still... somewhere out there is a project to trace through all the various organizations of blogs and such: blogathons, carnivals, etc...

And speaking of blog-a-thons (filmsquish aside, there is no way I am typing the damned hyphens every time) - the Misunderstood Blogathon has wrapped up - a nice collection of posts there... coming up fast, May 25 - Edwards Copeland's Star Wars Blogathon in honor of the 30th annivesary of the release of the film. After that, they come thick and fast in June - Simpsons (June 4-8) - Studio Ghibli (June 4-8) - Action Heroines (I feel a Bridgit Lin post coming on) (June 12) - Film Music (June 21-25) - John Ford (June 29-July 9)... It's a blog-a-thonathon!

Anyway - I must hit post. Again, unfortunately - I posted this accidentally half-written. Clever work!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday Singalong

...well, the singalong part is optional. The usual routine - 10 songs tossed up by iTunes' shuffle, comments if I can think of any....

1. Wilco - Via Chicago (live) - perhaps the demon dj in the iPod knows there is a new Wilco record out? if so, it worked, since I rushed right out and bought it! but I suppose I was going to do that anyway...
2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Supernaturally **** - of course, lately, when the iPod isn't on shuffle, I've been listening to a lot of Nick Cave - especially the new Grinderman record, but also the live record...
3. De La Soul - Transmitting Live From Mars - isn't this a Pere Ubu cover?
4. The Fall - M5
5. Nirvana - Lithium
6. The Stanley Borthers - Angel Band
7. Johnny Cash - San Quentin *** - this is the second take; the audience has calmed down a bit...
8. Yardbirds - Shapes of Things ***** - that's a heck of a guitar solo in there...
9. The Who - Tattoo (Live at Leeds)
10. Wire - Mr Suit - Wire is always welcome

Video? Let's try the Yardbirds - not the greatest quality, but nice footage of Jeff Beck doing his thing:

And for no particular reason except it's also on YouTube, and a rare moment of economy by the principal guitarist, the same song with Jimmy Page doing the honors:

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Understanding Inland Empire

This is not the direction I had expected to take for Culture Snob's Misunderstood blogathon, but in the last couple weeks I have come across a couple complaints about Inland Empire that made me think. Well - that distracted me from parsing out the relevance of the pharmakon to Ikiru, at any rate. But thinking about it - being misunderstood certainly seems to be a fundamental condition of Lynch's films, and Inland Empire courts incomprehension as aggressively as films do. I say - many of Lynch's films are misunderstood from all sides: those who say they make no sense, those who look for a clear, stable explanation of the story. I think of the explications of Mulholland Drive or Lost Highway - the articles explaining who's dreaming who. I have little truck with such things. Those explanations quite clearly miss the point. So far, Inland Empire seems to have resisted such explication. No one's managed to reduce it to one character's dream yet. Thank goodness.

But that does not mean it doesn't make sense. For one thing - there is a plot. A rather simple and identifiable plot, actually, told in a reasonably straightforward manner. The plot of the film in the film, On High in Blue Tomorrows, is, in fact, basically the plot of Inland Empire. A woman with a jealous husband gets involved with a man with a jealous wife, and actions do have consequences, and bad actions have bad consequences. That's it - and what happens in the film fits the plot line consistently. I suspect, further, that the plot has a fairly standard structure - rising action, turning points, the subplots and parallels that go into making a good story are all there, more or less in their proper places. I think you can trace the plot's structure through what happens in the film without much difficulty. What makes this film Strange, though, is that this plot line is not enacted in anything like a unified story world. Instead, characters change, actors sometimes change, settings change, the ontological status of what we see changes (as we move from the Hollywood frame story, to the film within the film, to the world of the film in the film, to the flashbacks or scenes from 4-7 or a radio play or whatever the Polish scenes are meant to be), the ontological relationship between different scenes change (as we move from seeing actors playing in On High in Blue Tomorrows to following the story "directly" to scenes like Laura Dern watching herself on a movie screen, as she lives the story), with all of it filtered through unspecified layers of subjectivity - dreams, visions, memories, thoughts, etc....

Lynch does not stabilize these different worlds. He does not maintain stable levels of reality. Nikki and Devon are not more real than Billy and Sue - Lynch moves back and forth between the different worlds, an uncertainty the characters share - they often seem unsure of which world they are in at any given moment. Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway both received a good deal of attention on that question - critics made claims about what was real, who was real, they tried to stabilize the ontological relationships between Diane and Betty or Fred and Pete. It didn't really add anything to those films, and it would truly be a fool's errand with Inland Empire. It probably can't be done, and spending time on it tends to obscure the formal systems actually at work in the film.

Because there are certainly consistent principals at work. Most of them resolve around the structure I've been writing about: the way (using linguistic terms) the syntax of the film is relatively stable, while the semantics is relatively free. That is - the plot, at an abstract, structural level (a married woman and a married man have an affair with dire consequences) is stable; the story - the people things happen to, the places they happen in, the way things happen, the way the characters seem to experience things happening - is mutable. It's a structure that relates to the outside world: it relates, I think (and have said before), to the mechanics of dreams. Comparing Lynch's films to dreams may be a commonplace, but it's justified - they work like dreams: the way images, words, situations, places, cycle through dreams, and are put together into stories by the subconscious. Lynch's formal strategies also relate to other art forms and traditions. Dada, for example - we could compare it to Max Ernst's collage work, for one. Ernst often built collages out of similar principals - take an identifiable form (the body, say), and while maintaining its basic shape, change its "contents", as here, Ubu Imperator:

In that example - the "form" of the body remains - the parts are arranged in a recognizable pattern: but he "content" has been switched out - the torso turned into a building, the legs and feet into the point of a top.

What Lynch does isn't all that different. He maintains the form, the syntax - the logic of the plot - while abandoning the requirement for ontological unity. But the lost unity (of world, character, etc.) is replaced by the logic of the plot - and of the image, the face, of words and phrases. Wagstaff's crack (in the comments to the post on Edward Copeland's site) that this film is basically about Lynch's obsession with lamps isn't so far off. It's certainly about the other kinds of logic possible in a film: the logic of the plot, as a kind of abstract equation; the logic of objects and spaces and colors and qualities of light; the logic of words as objects (the passage and cycling of words, phrases, sounds, through the story - "look at me, and tell me if you've known me before"; everyone who's "good with animals"). It might be justifiable to say as well - it is about logic itself. Relating back to dreams - our subconscious finds the logic in the disparate images our brains throw up while we are dreaming; Lynch invite us to find and follow threads of logic through his films. They have a contingent logic, a series of substitutions and associations, that lead us from scene to scene, shot to shot - and, at a higher level, tend to resolve into broad, somewhat abstract patterns, like the plot, or the general emotional quality, like that of a woman in trouble.

And even then: it is possible to interpret Lynch's films - they are, usually, grounded in fairly clear emotional and moral positions. Going back to the comments at Edward Copeland's place - Chris Stangl's defense of Inland Empire sounds about right. What does it mean? Something about acting, and something about how life is acting, and something about our complicity with everyone and everything else. (And some good old fashioned moralism, too - the bonds of marriage are real bonds - I think he means it.) But how it works - and whether it's a hodge-podge of unconnected scenes, stitched together randomly after the fact, or, for that matter, whether there's a way to read it as a simple, stable, realistic story - well, you now have my thoughts on the subject...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Certain Convocation of Politic Worms...

I hesitate to note the passing of Mr. Jerry Falwell. You can tell I'm hesitating - it's taken me a day to get round to a post! I hesitate for obvious reasons - never is Thumper's mother's advice more apt than when speaking of the recently deceased: if you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all. Nor is there any point, really, in piling on - he lived a long life, died conventionally enough - there are no points to be scored, and it is just as well. There are those who loved him, and they deserve respect; and none of us want to see our heroes abused when they shuffle off this mortal coil, so perhaps we should forbear when our villains go to the dust.... But still - insofar as a man's death is occasion for reflection on his life - he was a rotten son of a bitch, and the best thing I can come up with to say about him is that there are far worse, even among his fellow god peddlers. Pat Robertson? James Dobson? working your way down to Randall Terry, Fred Phelps - a vicious lot of sinners, poisoning the republic with their "christian" thuggery... they - and Falwell - make a better case for atheism than a hundred Richard Dawkins' could.

On the other hand - as Jay B said in comments at Alicublog, he did what he did and said what he said and apparently meant it, and did not weasel about it, and made a lot less headway doing it than he gets credit for. I refered to the New York Times obit for a reason, actually - it was sitting side by side (and still is) with this story: Bush Intervened in Dispute Over N.S.A. Eavesdropping:
President Bush intervened in March 2004 to avert a crisis over the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program after Attorney General John Ashcroft, Director Robert S. Mueller III of the F.B.I. and other senior Justice Department aides all threatened to resign, a former deputy attorney general testified Tuesday.

Mr. Bush quelled the revolt over the program’s legality by allowing it to continue without Justice Department approval, also directing department officials to take the necessary steps to bring it into compliance with the law, according to Congressional testimony by the former deputy attorney general, James B. Comey.
That sort of thing, gutting the constitution in the dark, over the objections of that noted civil libertarian John Ashcroft - that will give you pause. Talking Points Memo, as usual, is a fine source of commentary on the subject. They have video, for example. And Glenn Greenwald, of course: this post will probably still be around in a year - discussing its relevance to the NSA spying scandal.

In any case: I'll draw once more on the bard to sum up Falwell's kind:

Indeed this counsellor
Is now most still, most secret and most grave,
Who was in life a foolish prating knave.

His silence is most welcome. Too bad for him, it has only come from death, not wisdom or decency.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Is it Friday Again?

Another one post a week, I see. Very bad. I will blame Deadwood - finally decided to get the DVDs and watch it. Oh well - there goes the next month.... I oculd blog about it, I suppose, which would only put me about 3 years behind the rest of the world.

Anyway - at least you can count on a music post a week! And next week - don't miss Culture Snob's Misunderstood Blogathon. That one's likely to get me to actually write something! But now - what's on the iPod's mind this week?

1. X - Once Over Twice - hey! why didn't this have any stars? let's retrofit - *** is about right.
2. Sonic Youth - Pipeline/Kill Time - ooh, back in the mood for some post-punk/avant garage/noisemongering, are we?
3. Comets on Fire - Whiskey River - hmmm... guitar wanking? always welcome...
4. Outkast - Roses **** - shifting gears a bit...
5. Stooges - 1970 ***** - back to the skronk then
6. Destroyer - Painter in Your Pocket - or now it's Canadian indie pop
7. John Lennon - Look At Me - or... this is what makes last week - or those weeks where a bunch of 5 star songs come up - so strange: there's 9500 songs on the damn thing, from all over the place... some things are going to come up a lot - Pere Ubu, the Stones, the Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Ramones, U2, Yo la Tengo, Radiohead, REM - Outkast is going to be well represented - Beatles, Bowie, Dylan - stuff I have tons of... but that's a pretty broad sampling of styles I just listed - and it doesn't account for types of music, like kraut rock and japanese noise rock and prog and rap and new wave/pop that I tend to sample more broadly than deeply, but do sample, rather broadly... so or one style to dominate? you can tie the stooges and sonic youth and comets on fire together, but it's a lot looser than a grouping of pere ubu, red crayola, sonic youth, kills, nick cave, dinosaur jr.... randomness is very cool sometimes.
8. Radiohead - I might be Wrong ***
9. Van Halen - Feel Your Love Tonight
10. Beatles - Why Don't We Do It in the Road

So then - what sort of video marvels can we turn up today? Well - can't find the song that came up tosay, but X is always welcome. This is an old, scrappy live tape of Los Angeles:

Friday, May 04, 2007

Avant Garage Friday

Sometimes, the iPod randomizer seems to get an idea in its head. Like today - there's a definite pattern here - artsy surf and punk - avant garage....

1. Steve Miller Band - Jungle Love *** (good old Steve Miller - he's kind of the quintessential 70s MOR pop-rock singer, but he did it better than almost anyone else. Those tasteful, cool guitar riffs, neat little tunes, the occasional nifty turn of a phrase - probably the first rock star I actually noticed, other than the Beatles...)
2. Red Crayola - Tina's Gone to Have a Baby (sort of the original avant garage band.... one of them.)
3. Ella Fitzgerald - Cotton Tail (doesn't quite fit the theme, but you know - Ella and her perfect voice is always welcome)
4. Pere Ubu - Raygun Suitcase (where the term comes from, the estimable Mr. Thomas.)
5. Jacques Brel - Je Suis Un Soir D'Ete
6. Jackie-O-Motherfucker - Manchester UK Nov 3 (live)
7. Sonic Youth - Tuff Gnarl
8. Grinderman - When My Love Comes Down (I am quickly coming to really like this record. Nick Cave's guitar playing is a very inspiring thing....)
9. Dinosaur Jr. - Gargoyle
10. The Kills - Superstition

And video? oh hell, who can resist? The first rock and roll song I positively loved:

And - because I cut them from the "random" ten - here's REM doing Hyena, back in 1984...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy May Day!

In honor of which, a film review. The Red and the White, a 1967 Hungarian film, directed by Miklos Jansco.

This has to be on the short list of great war movies. It is set during the Russian civil war, 1919 - it follows, somewhat, a group of Hungarians who are fighting for the Bolsheviks. It is set in and around a monastery and a hospital, and in the woods and fields and rivers around them. It operates by stripping the fighting of all sense: it is all middle. It starts in the middle of something - two men running alongside a river, shooting back at something. One of them crosses the river and then a group of horsemen appear and chase him back to the river, where they murder him in cold blood. The riders ride off. The other man escapes. He turns up at the monastery where his comrades - Hungarians, POWs who have stayed to fight for the Reds - are humiliating prisoners. But they are captured in turn and humiliated and murdered and chased half naked through the countryside. They hide for a while in the hospital, but the whites turn up and start humiliating and killing people, until the Reds turn up and humiliate and kill the whites. Then there is a battle of sorts....

This is all very beautiful - stark, lush black and white photography, long, fluid takes, the camera prowling through the world around the men abusing one another, everything arranged, shot and staged in deep, complex spaces - every shot suitable for framing, as Michael Atkinson said of Jansco's countryman Bela Tarr. But what we see is as brutal and absurd as anything in Tarr's work - a seamless thread of cruelty and death, all of it stripped of all context. It starts in the middle of a scene, and everything afterwards remains in the middle - we never really learn who people are, where, why - even when fortunes of war change, all we see are the results - most of the actual fighting takes place off screen.

Instead we see a cycle of absurdities, repeated over and over: we see men running, stripping, forming up in lines, marching this way and that, shooting and getting shot, jumping into rivers, being separated into groups. Russians split from Hungarians, reds from whites, those who ran from those who didn't - or if all else fails, men are picked out of the group randomly. And on and on it goes, the same things repeated: strip, run, split, fall into line, march, shoot, run, strip, split, combine... murders, rapes or threats of rape, hiding, being found... There is no real pattern to any of this - it is a long, absurd skein, both what happens and how we see it, with those long, relentless tracks watching all this pointless brutality. It's as chaotic and insane a vision of war as you could ask - completely meaningless and unheroic.

The film maintains that relentless pointless logic, though there are a few moments that sharpen the point somewhat. One scene at the hospital - one of the Hungarians has been seducing a nurse, maybe to get her to help him send another man for help.... the Whites turn up and catch the man and force the woman to swim, naked, then come out of the water and stand on a jetty while they deal with the man. This starts in long shot - the man, woman, Whites on the jetty - the man is brought forward though, into a medium shot, sometimes even closer, while the Whites harass him. They mock him - they tell him to sing. He does - an insulting song in Hungarian. The woman, all this time, stands in the background, naked, watched by the guards. He finishes singing, he is marched back out onto the jetty and forced into the river where he is summarily bayonetted. The woman crouches down, still naked, on the jetty...

Or the ending, when we finally see an actual, coherent battle. A group of Hungarians run into a group of Cossacks - they exchange shots and see a whole army of Whites come out of the woods. They try to leave, but the cavalry charges - they are surrounded. For a few minutes the battle looks like the rest of the film - men walk back and forth, shooting in all directions - a couple of them fall... then - though we still don't see all the enemies, they form up into a line and march off singing, and the camera rises and shows a vast army of whites spread out to meet them.....

And the closeup that ends it.... A truly great film.