Archive for February 3rd, 2012

February 3, 2012

My Best Fiend (1999 – DVD)

“Every grey hair on my head, I call Kinski”

I recently picked up the six DVD Herzog/Kinski Boxset for only £6! The collaborations between ambitious Director Werner Herzog and intensly manic Actor Klaus Kinski are uniformly celebrated but I’ve never seen any of them. I’ve only seen Herzog’s brilliant recent international films like ‘Grizzly Man’ and ‘Bad Lieutenant’ so I’m looking forward to a journey into his earlier Germanic origins. It features all five movies they made together in the 70s and 80s and also the documentary ‘My Best Fiend’ that Herzog made about Kinski 8 years after the actors death. I have a soft spot for films about film so I couldn’t resist playing this first.

Herzog starts the film with footage of Kinski raging at a gathered audience with such wide-eyed lunacy that it’s as if the anti-Christ himself has taken the stage. This is the Klaus Kinski the public know and in a way love. Yet he concludes the movie with astounding and beautiful footage of Kinski playing with a butterfly as if he is an angelic puppeteer. In between these two bookends is a surprisingly tender (Given what Kinski put Herzog through) portrait of a quixotic, frustrating, possessed egomaniac who makes everyone around him suffer for his art. One story tells of him shooting the fingertip off of one of the extras from ‘Aguirre, The Wrath Of God’. Then another scene has the great Claudia Cardinale telling of the cute little notes he would pass her on the location of ‘Fitzcarraldo’.

‘My Best Fiend’ is a captivating and essential document of the crazed 70s/80s filmmaking era. I can’t wait to watch the movies themselves, reviews on the way.

Here’s a particularly tempestuous scene:

February 3, 2012

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005 – Blu-Ray)

“If there’s anything around here more important than my ego, I want it caught and shot now”

There are two reasons why I added 2005’s ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ to my LoveFilm rental list.  One, because I’m still excited by the impending ‘The Hobbit’ films (Which will also star Martin Freeman) and two, because I just watched ‘Moon’ and rapidly needed another hit of Sam Rockwell acting genius.

Of course being a lifelong fan of Douglas Adams’ hilarious Hitchhiker’s series of Radio/TV-Shows and Books I saw the film at the Cinema when it came out in 2005. At the time I thought it was alright but my affection for the 1978 Radio Show meant that some of the film’s departures from the source felt misjudged. The two most obvious of these were, the casting of Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent who while good isn’t a patch on Simon Jones’ world-weary Arthur and the stunt-casting of Mos-Def as Ford Prefect.  The change from David Dixon’s Posh-English-Mildly-Eccentric Ford (In the 1981 TV Show) to Mos-Def’s version of Ford as a bizarre-hyperactive-mumbling-Brooklynite (Despite supposedly being from Guildford!) was a big pill to swallow.

On that first viewing, one thing the makers had clearly got right was by casting Sam Rockwell as Egomaniac-Galactic-President Zaphod Beeblebrox. On the DVD-Extras it’s revealed that two of Sam’s inspirations for his portrayal of Zaphod were Bill Clinton and Elvis.  It was the only element of the 2005 film that comprehensively surpassed all previous portrayals. Though of course the gorgeous quirkyness of Zooey Deschanel made a wonderful new Trillion.

Now watching the film seven years later I’ve gained a bit more perspective, allowing me to fully enjoy the kaleidoscopic delights of this movie.  This is made all the more pleasurable by the absolutely stunning Blu-Ray transfer featuring eye-popping colours and clarity bringing every detail of the wondrous costumes and sets to life. On this viewing I appreciated all kinds of clever things like nods to Terry Gilliam’s bureaucratic-nightmare ‘Brazil’ in the design of the Vogon’s city and the brilliance of Jim Henson’s Vogon puppets themselves.  The film succeeds in that essential Sci-Fi goal of making every item you see (Or even barely notice) on the screen look designed and the Guide itself looks and works a hell of alot like an iPad, 5 years before Apple created it (Although unlike that Apple device, the voice-control actually works!).  The best new thing I noticed was the effort of the film-makers to demonstrate the benefits of Towel ownership in many scenes (One of Douglas Adams’ best gags).  Ford and Arthur can be seen using their towels as cravats to keep warm, as weapons to flick the Vogon’s with and even as shields against weird shovel-like alien guards.  I’m now wishing that the creators had been given the money to make the sequel that the end hints at. Oh well, guess I’ll have a cup of tea instead.

Here’s one of the “REALLY deleted scenes” from the DVD-Extras (Comedy gold!):

Also here is a Sam Rockwell screentest bonus (Unrelated to Hitchhiker’s but still genius):