Sunday, August 29, 2010

Was Fred Astaire a tranny?

[Click to enlarge]

Post number 300 on Lolita's Classics deliver no less than a previously unknown photo of Fred Astaire in dress. RKO recently let go of this shocking portrait of the celebrated dancing actor.

According to a press conference held last week, Astaire himself prompted on posing in his favorite dress for a publicity still. The green and golden gown had previously belonged to his regular film partner Ginger Rogers, who obviously knew about Astaire's fascination for women's clothes and gave it to him as a birthday present.

The impressive rack was manually added to the photograph afterwards, also on request from the dance god himself.

Was Fred Astaire a transvestite, or was this photograph just a result of a crazy whim? We will probably never know, but you can read various theories and more about the subject here and here.

A site dedicated to fascinating secrets like these lies high on my recommendation list.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm back... but not really.

Hello, beloved ones!

I'm not on honeymoon anymore. I came back to the Realm of the Swedes on Sunday, with a bag full of ethanol-filled bottles. Well, at least two bottles of gin, one bottle of Vodka and a bottle of cheap whiskey. Don't come to me and say that Scandinavians have a liquor problem. We just like to binge drink a lot.

Anyway. On the plane back home there was suddenly huge flashes of lightning, and a deep voice among the thunder in the hell ridden sky that shouted to me: "I will strike upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, those who buy cheap alcohol in Spain and bring it across the borders of Europe!" I briefly wondered why Samuel was so angry with me, but I shrugged it off. What could he do about it, I thought.

He gave me fever, coughing and a cataclysm of snot. I'm not kidding when I tell you that I have blown half of my brain out of my nose, and coughed up vital parts of my intestines.

My point with this being that I don't feel fit to watch any film more mentally challenging than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), and no movie more sophisticated than Dodgeball (2004). And even if I would try to make you suffer by reviewing the last one, the quality of my writing would not exceed that of Dan Brown's. You deserve better.

To quote Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich: Hold tight.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Away on honeymoon

Sorry that I bored you to death by writing about Swedish films the last two blog posts. I should be ashamed.

Now I'm off to Alicante, Spain for a week on honeymoon! See ya later, groupies!

While the wedding photos from my personal photographer are taking some time to get finished, here's a little appetizer from a relative's camera - "You may kiss your bride."

Left to right: Maid of honor, silver screen queen of the day, the lucky guy and best man.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Inconvenient Swedes

"I am a broker. There has to be some of them too."

Ah, come on - Swedish culture is fun. But since interest in my previous post on Hasse Ekman was quite absent (shame on you - I think that's a hate crime), perhaps one of the more eccentric Swedish film makers is more in your taste. I mean, we are rather weird at times.

"Abstinence or, for those who have someone, prolonged fidelity, are advised."

Roy Andersson is known for his bizarre and stale staging and absurd long takes, making almost every scene in his films inconveniently humorous. It's a spot on parody on Swedish manners: we do not like to speak in public, we are stale and uncomfortable with the unknown (whether it be strangers or foreign culture) and Jesus, we have no humor.

[Interestingly enough, this somewhat malicious portrait of Sweden is the extreme opposite of the other picture of us: the sexually promiscuous population that loves to bathe topless. Can't the world decide if we are boring or exotic? I feel this fact gives me great difficulties in defining my own personality.]

"You know - just about anything could suddenly turn up down there, in the warmth and damp."

Anyways. Roy Andersson, nicknamed "slapstick Ingmar Bergman) has made several popular films and TV commercials, often leaving the audience scratching their heads wondering whether to laugh at it, love it or reject it. Of course, if you choose to reject Roy Andersson you have no taste in art at all.

What I will now introduce to you is a work of his called Something Has Happened (Någonting har hänt, 1987), a short film that deals with the (then) ongoing AIDS paranoia. The humor in this piece is not the disease itself (we Swedes do still not maliciously laugh at disasters, mind you), but rather the different approaches doctors and the public take to explain the origins of the disease.

It was of course the homosexuals' fault. Or was it the monkeys? Or black people? It's really bizarre to see a an embarrassing "professor" trying to share his Negro-in-the-damp-jungles-of-Africa theory to a classroom full of wax-doll looking students, accompanied by bored coughing. The above mentioned blocking of the actors, stale and bizarre like a 16th century painting, add to the weird humor.

"It could have been a Negro who was wandering about down there one day - like this."

Something Has Happened was shown at film festivals world wide in 1993, and was obviously well received. I would have loved to hear the audience's opinion. Note that the film is not a documentary- it's a staged satire on common assumptions and theories at the time.

"And now to something completely different" (yes, I'm well-read on stiff humor from all nations) - Roy Andersson has in 40 years (1967-2007) only made nine movies, according to IMDb. Quality rather than quantity, it seems.

"It's very, very natural."

Give Roy 24 minutes of your time, or face a slow, painful death by ingesting plague infested rats.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Girl with Hyacinths (1950)

Flicka och hyacinter or Girl with Hyacinths
Director: Hasse Ekman
Sweden 1950
89 min
Starring: Eva Henning, Ulf Palme, Birgit Tengroth, Anders Ek and Marianne Löfgren, among others.

Often mentioned as one of the finest Swedish films in history, especially if one was to exclude that Bergman director who always gets the spotlight, Girl with Hyacinths has been strangely forgotten. Once in a while it is shown on television, and perhaps a film festival every now and then has a Hasse Ekman special and praises it - but outside of Sweden? Time to do something about it.

There was actually a time, in the 1950's, when the public loved to try figuring out who was the best Swedish director: Ingmar Bergman or Hasse Ekman? "Ekman, who?" is your response (and even if you have heard of him, please let me believe that I know everything).

Hasse Ekman was the son of a highly respectable and talented stage actor, Gösta Ekman Sr. Gösta was kind of a Swedish Lon Chaney, a master of disguise. He mastered the role of a young aristocrat as well as that of an old, dirty beggar. You may have seen him in the title role of Faust (F. W. Murnau, 1926), or opposite Ingrid Bergman in her Hollywood ticket Intermezzo (Gustaf Molander, 1936). After the German character actor Emil Jannings, ironically playing the evil Mephisto in Faust, introduced Gösta to cocaine he slowly died the usual Hollywood death - without having been to Hollywood, of course.

Hasse Ekman (1915-2004) and father, Gösta Ekman (1890-1938).

Then there was the dapper son, Hasse Ekman. Oh, I'm so in love with him. He acted, wrote scripts and directed. And as I mentioned earlier, even was a "rival" to the great Ingmar Bergman. While Bergman cast Hasse in sadistic sociopath roles in his own films (see Sawdust and Tinsel, 1953), Hasse made fun of Bergman's crazy being with loopy characters in his films. Even though the media at the time wanted to believe that they hated each other intensely, the truth was that they had the highest respect for each other. And rightfully so.

Then Hasse went and had a son of his own, Gösta Ekman Jr., that is a beloved comedian and actor in Sweden since the 1970's. But enough about the prestigious Ekman family.

The handsome director of the film.
Looks a little bit like Robert Montgomery, doesn't he?

This brings us to what is known as Hasse Ekman's finest directorial achievment - Girl with Hyacinths. Think of it as a Swedish film noir, if you will. It is most likely inspired by films like Laura (1944) and other Hollywood successes at the time, but with the typical dark humor and off beat tone of (good) Scandinavian films.

The film begins with an almost entirely black scene. A dialog is heard while the camera follows a bottle of champagne to a female hand holding a glass. The camera pans down to her feet and follows her across the room to a piano, where the title role silently plays a gloomy tune. She is later identified as Dagmar Brink (Eva Henning, the director's wife at the time and one of Sweden's finest actresses).

Man: One more glass...?
Woman: Pour it up. I've drunk stronger men than you under the table.
Man: Germans can't take much.
Woman: I've partied with all nationalities.
Man: And more than that?
Woman (in English): Mind your own business, brother.

After a while Dagmar leaves the badly lit party and goes home by herself. She sits down in a chair and lits a cigarette. She looks up at the ceiling and notices a hook. The scene cuts to the next morning, when her maid discovers her body hanging from the hook.

The protagonist in the story is Dagmar's neighbor, amateur writer Anders Wikner (Ulf Palme). Surprisingly, he and his wife Britt (Birgit Tengroth) is informed by the police that Dagmar's belongings now are in their possession, as Dagmar had written in her suicide note. Anders' curiosity is awoken: Why did Dagmar kill herself? Why did she entrust her belongings to her neighbors?

The rest of the film contains of Anders' detective work, as he tries to unravel Dagmar's past and her reasons for committing suicide. As her story unfolds through acquaintances of the deceased, scenes of the past are depicted and gives the viewer more information and explanations - as well as more questions, of course. The Wikner couple may as well be one of the cutest married couples in film, apart from Nick and Nora Charles of course.

Ulf Palme and Birgit Tengroth investigating.

Eva Henning as Dagmar Brink, and what is often called her best performance ever.

Girl with Hyacinths is an intriguing story with many of Sweden's finest actors. For the one who has seen many Ingmar Bergman films, there are a lot of familiar faces to be recognized - especially Anders Ek as the alcoholic artist Elias Körner, the one who portrayed Dagmar ("Miss Lonely", as he called her) in a painting he named "Girl with Hyacinths". Even though being Ekman's supposed enemy, Bergman had following to say about the film:

"An absolute masterpiece. 24 carats. Perfect."

Elias Törner: Merry Christmas! Merry fucking Christmas!

Not only is the film beautifully written and acted, but the mobile camera work is pretty admirable for the time and place and the musical score is wonderful. Another interesting aspect of the film, as it unravels Dagmar's past in the 1940's, is its depiction of WWII Sweden. Being a neutral country in the war (and every war since Napoleon), one hardly thinks about how it affected people then (or even that it affected anyone).
At one time Dagmar's husband turns on the radio, where news about Germany's invasion of Paris is being reported. How this is relevant to the story is not for me to spoil, but Dagmar looks terrified, turns off the radio and says that this is appalling. Her husband disagrees:

Capt. Brink: No worse than when they entered Brussels, Amsterdam or Warsaw.
Dagmar: They're vile.
Capt. Brink: But damn good soldiers. That rotten and corrupted France needs some cleaning up.
Dagmar: You sound like a Nazi.
Capt. Brink: I admire them, as an officer.

These conflicting attitudes toward Nazi Germany returns later in the film, and may or may not have something to do with Dagmar's sad ending.

All in all, this is a film worth being seen outside of Sweden. As you can see from the screenshots, subtitles are available if you know where to look. Give it a shot - especially if you are traumatized by having thrust yourself into Bergman films too early and think that all Swedish films are either existential migraine or 1970's exploitation.
Girl with Hyacinths is good stuff - even though Hasse Ekman never appeared in front of the camera, which makes me a little sad. But give it a shot if you have the opportunity.

Until then, you can always check out my new wallpaper with Hasse Ekman and Eva Henning. Married couples can be cool:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Al Pacino needs to burn

Oh, no. It's nothing personal. I don't mind Pacino, even though he seldom plays anything but a hot-tempered sociopath. He was good as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (2004), though. The combination of an angry Italian and Shakespeare is priceless.

So now I will explain why he has to burn.

I got this weird text from my mother today. "I found Al Pacino under the freezer. Do you want him?"

Usually I have quite a good imagination, but this time I had no idea what she meant. I called her up, and obviously she found a Scarface (1983) poster under the freezer while cleaning. Don't ask me how it ended up there, but I suddenly burst into laughter. You see, this was one more or less treasured possession of an ex-boyfriend of mine (and I can't say that he had great taste in films) - the same person that took off with my Beatles Rubber Soul vinyl (that he had giving to me, after some manipulation) when I dumped him. The same person that was bitter enough as to describe to me on his blog as "an evil she-devil that exploited me both emotionally and economically". That post is a regular laughing stock on parties, so thank you dear!
(I won't give you the blog address since it is A in Swedish, and B mostly pretentious crap about how blue he feels and what emo music he listens to.)

Okay, so I kind of manipulated him into paying for a Bob Dylan concert at The Globe in Stockholm, but that was after I broke it off. I mean, what did I have to lose on a free concert? If he was naive enough to think that I would take him back because I got to watch a drunk and confused (but incredibly cool) music legend from the front row, he has only himself to blame.

I thought that I should set fire to the poster with the cigar I got as a wedding gift from my friend. Maybe I will paint on a grease mustache and eyebrows, while laughing maniacally. Moahaha!

(I guess you all could guess that I haven't watched too many classic movies lately, so I have to write about anything remotely related that comes to mind.)

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm not that stupid

To those who may interpret me as a misogynist, feminist hater or terrorist supporter:
(For those who haven't even had the thought that I would be a mean person - just look at the pictures and enjoy.)

I may be blonde in the picture above, but I'm not that stupid. This is a film blog, and it would be stupid (which I'm not, at least not that stupid) to sneak in upsetting political comments to scare off my readers. One could compare that hypothetical deed to the popular urban legend that Tommy Hilfiger once said that he didn't want black people or Asians to wear his clothes. That would just be stupid.

Even though this is a classic film blog, I have obviously made some political comments every now and then - but that is either for harmless comical reasons or that the Swedish minister of justice has an IQ of a football and recently has proven it yet again. I.e. nothing that should upset my, mostly American, readers.

Why do I then feel the need to explain myself? I have no fucking idea, and I despise myself for it. It's fucking common sense that I do not hate women for being women, that I do knot know enough about feminist history to know that some amazing things have been accomplished, or that I would be as ignorant as to have some underlying hatred for all Americans just because your ex-President was considered totally loopy by great parts of the world population.

My real political opinions are rather normal and boring, to tell you the truth, and therefore I may spice them up with obviously bizarre comments if I feel like making a brief reference to political opinions. Like "all women are usually whiny bitches".

Thankfully, 99% of my readers seem to have brains enough not to think twice about it. Thankfully, most of those people who do find my blog disturbing just go to some other area of the pretty big world of the Internet. Thankfully, most people probably don't want to waste their valuable time giving pathetic life lessons in the comment section of a blog post they didn't like.

Thankfully, most of my dear readers also understand that this is a classic film blog for movie nerds - and that politics have nothing to do with the subject.

I guess everyone that was born with a sense of humor can see the difference between making fun of innocent victims of a national disaster, and a lighthearted reference to the incident as a whole. The latter does not mean "yay for terrorism and loads of civilians ending up dead".

In Sweden the MS Estonia disaster of -94 (852 deaths, read more about it here) is still a touchy subject, especially with the state-smuggling-weapons-on-board-and-therefore-didn't-raise-the-ship conspiracy theory attached to it. Just adorable.

That doesn't mean that we would go berserk if someone mentions it - or even jokes about it. If it shows to be a tasteless joke, then one can be pretty calm with the notion that it was spoken by a pathetic person not worthy of my attention.

So... are we cool now? If not, just remember that I will not beg on my knees to explain something obvious and (for the theme of my blog) irrelevant again. I will do a lot for my readers, but when it comes to this shit once is enough. When (hopefully "if") similar comments about me being an asshole reach my comment section, I will just answer with a link to this post.

Notice that I never delete the comments - they are pretty entertaining in a way too.

Inception (2010) was, by the way, a mind blowing film that I would recommend to about anyone.

It's clever (took about eight years to write!) and original - something that I never dare to expect to come from Hollywood since the 1960's. Don't read too much about it before watching it, though. Or, do - you will not understand a thing anyway and will not be able to spoil it for yourself. You only have to know that the film centers around the concept of being able to break into and manipulate dreams - an ability that some would pay a lot to be able to exploit. Oh, and that dear, dear Marion Cotillard is in it.

And the film nerd's favorite: