March 7th, 2004

bazille_summer scene

Movie Night

I didn't know it was on, so I missed the first half hour, but last night the Independent Film Channel showed Russ Meyer's 1970 camp, soft-core porn classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the script for which was co-written by that ChuckleTM devouring movie critic and gray-haired boy, Roger Ebert! Meyer is known for his tongue-in-cheek (and other places) porn movies such as Vixens, Ultravixens and Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens, which were all low budget, cheesy, and oddly humorous bits of smut that were also satires of smut. I only ever saw one of them (and I can't remember which) but somehow I missed his one higher budget venture into *ahem* classy X-rated fare. I am pleased that my youthful oversight has at last been corrected, and happy to say that Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is every bit as cheesy as his cheap porn flicks.

It is sometimes difficult to tell if he is taking the movie seriously, or if he is merely pretending to take it seriously. The result is that the viewer never quite knows whether they are laughing at the movie, or with the movie. With other over-the-top campy movies of the time, such as Barbarella or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, one is always aware of the director's wink, as it were, and those movies thus have a certain archness which is entirely lacking in Dolls. The only thing that made me almost sure that I was watching parody, rather than a film that was meant to be taken seriously, is the fact that it was directed by Meyer -- but the guy had me going. There were more than a few moments when I suffered the horrifying thought that he really meant it! Had I not remembered who the director was, I'd have been convinced that the movie was genuinely, unintentionally bad. Bad beyond belief, in fact. Indeed, worthy of Ed Wood, himself!

I think that Meyer must have brought off this tour de farce by not letting his cast of pretty, modestly talented "C" list actors in on the joke. They are so relentlessly earnest, even when delivering the most appalling dialogue, in the most absurd scenes, while wearing what may be the most outrageously laughable 1970's outfits ever put on film. And I can't even begin to describe the hair! I thought I would die laughing when I saw those serious faces peering out from all that bizarre hair. And, oh, the irrational editing, the inexplicable inconsistencies of plot and character! They make Plan Nine From Outer Space seem a marvel of coherence by comparison! The movie proper concludes with an utterly improbable and incongruous scene of violence and redemption which would make Mel Gibson shudder with horror, if he got it, and this is immediately followed by a brief epilogue in which a narrator delivers what would be the most remarkably sententious, smarmy collection of verbal pap imaginable, if it were meant to be taken seriously. Altogether, it was a perfect delight. I don't think there is anything else quite like it (except for Meyer's own much cheaper porn movies, in which his scope was limited by the nature of the form.) I don't know if the IFC is going to be showing it again soon, but if you get the channel, and you haven't seen the movie, it's worth an evening to see what is probably the best bad movie ever made.

Well, this is Sunday morning, and at this point I usually post some bit of poetry which is provocative of thought or contemplation, but following the above, the transition would be a bit jarring. I can recall several works of Paul Goodman's which are both worthy poems and yet of good humor, but, alas, I've been unable to find my volume of Goodman's works. Then I recalled a piece of Richard Wilbur's which might be apropos. This particular piece might not (as mrmustard once suggested my usual poetry posts do) count as the equivalent of church attendance (unless one accepts it as a cautionary sermon), but I hope it is enjoyed.

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caillebotte_the balcony


We have reached that time of year when the days are warm and the nights quickly cool. It will take but a week of this before there will be an abundance of buds on all the flowering bushes, and tiny new leaves will cast pale green shade to soften the blue afternoons. Already, the bird song is rampant, and the mornings filled with swift crows. The apple trees have sent out their new shoots, and all the orchard seems blanketed in a red haze. Moss which days ago sprang soft and lush from tree trunks now turns brown and papery as its moisture vanishes into the warm air. This is the time of year when the droning engine of a light plane circling the cloud-flecked sky resonates in my thoughts and emerges as a melancholy desire for unattainable journeys. Though the equinox remains two weeks away, spring has surely arrived.