The main feature of this weeks lecture was Irving Rapper’s 1942 Bette Davis classic Now, Voyager, a tale of psychology, romance, and Claude Rains- in that order. Over twenty books have been written on this film alone; allegedly a perfect psychological study into ‘what women (or Bette Davis) want’, so what is there to add? Well, it’s jolly good fun, with the supporting cast dropping absolute clunkers and a fantastic ten minute sequence confirming the widespread belief that all Spanish speaking peoples are God-fearing idiots. Actually I’m being unfair; it really was a fun watch, and Bette Davis certainly makes an unusual romantic lead, and a complex one at that. Although, dare we say it, perhaps the films pop-psychological conclusions are somewhat less than groundbreaking? No matter; Bonita Granville still gets a chance to play the most miserable bitch on celluloid, second only to Norma Bates as the mother you really wish you didn’t have at parents evening. The style of hats Davis wears are apparently also subject to some psychological discussion in the more noted texts, as are the shoes she wears, so I’ll say right here that they were very nice. The always fantastic Claude Rains does as best he can playing second fiddle to fashion accessories, and Paul Henreid proves, once again, that male romantic leads in black and white period dramas are possibly the most boring people alive; never mind what he can do with two cigarettes (and the answer is not an innuendo). Okay, so this hasn’t been particularly analytical, but, in truth, this film made very little impact on me. Possibly made with Sunday afternoon viewing in mind, it would suit said scenario very well, but only if you’re bored of The Dirty Dozen and Kelly’s Heroes, need a Claude Rains fix, and your old copy of Casablanca has worn out. Hope for something more interesting next week.
Actually, interesting is the perfect way to describe White Trash Girl. A 1995 short, it’s the semi-comic tale of the eponymous hero, an inbred baby grown on toxic waste in the sewers until she developed such phenomenal super powers as rudeness, super-bitch-ness and projectile coming; all delightfully rendered onscreen. It’s rather hard to know what to make of all this. Obviously satirical, the film is shot in a mixed-media experimental way reminiscent of Harmony Korine’s Gummo. Maybe the director, Jennifer Reeder, is making a comment on the ‘religion of television’ popular in Middle America, or possibly on the media’s view of such people, but it all seems rather pointless. It is funny, but in a weird Did-I-really-just-see-that? kind of way rather than genuine amusement. The fact Reeder has only one other film to her name suggests a lot of thought and reasoning went into this production, and the film is so obviously cynical it can only be trying to say something, but it eludes me what. Maybe White Trash Girl is beyond me, but somehow I don’t think so. To be perfectly honest, I suspect Reeder came up with the projectile-coming gag and wrote the rest of the film around that. It may be worth seeing, but only because it lasts no longer than ten minutes.
At least Richard Kern’s short film ‘The Bitches’ is honest about its conception. Two women sit in a room. A man enters. They have rough sex. Cut to black. The women now have penises. They spit-roast the man. The end. Another comment on our society? On the porn industries objectifying of women, with a clever twist of the tables at the end? Probably not. As overt and hardcore as any of the fuck-flicks Kern has made, this at least had the decency to be in black and white. Forget about it, as serious art or something to arouse. Watch Pickpocket or Deep Throat instead.