Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Book Shelf: Only Kokumo Can Stop Pazuzu!

There's something poignant about a "making of" book about a movie that became a notorious flop. These things are usually written by a studio publicist, so they're always the rosiest pictures of the artistic process. In retrospect, though, you can read between the lines and see where everything went wrong, how bad decisions were made, etc. I also have a copy of "The Making of Dune," about David Lynch's great bomb. Both that book and the one shown above are kinda sad, because everyone is so excited about the movie! And in both books, they talk enthusiastically about planning sequels! Oh, gosh, it's sad, because unlike most books, you know the ending before the characters do.

Then again, I don't think Exorcist II, the Heretic is a bad movie. I think it's superb! And no, I really don't mean that in an ironic way. I don't think it's "so bad it's good" (we've talked about this before!); I think it's so good it's great! I will grudgingly admit that some of the actors in the film could be better, but otherwise will defend everything about it. It's a deeply weird, abstract story involving dreams and mental institutions and locusts and doves and priests and Africa and tapdancing and... gosh, just so bizarre! And it's bizarre on purpose! It is, after all, a John Boorman film, and he doesn't just accidentally make a strange movie. Have you seen Zardoz? The word "extraordinary" on the cover of the book is an understatement. All this and Ennio Morricone's most rocking score, too!

The book is interesting, a great way to learn about Boorman's off-kilter approach to filmmaking. It's true that the production was plagued by a lot of bad luck, but the director's way of dealing with adversity was impressive. And he really is weird: the book goes into great detail about his use of color, and how all blues and greens, even blue jeans on extras, were banished from the production and, indeed, The Heretic is entirely red, white, black and brown. Later I saw his also underrated The Tailor of Panama, and noticed an obsessive amount of the once-forbidden blue in the movie. To be honest, I haven't read the book in a long time, but I remember it being way more interesting than expected.

Some people might call Exorcist II nonsensical, but I prefer to think of it as difficult, in the same way Mulholland Drive is difficult, puzzling, non-linear. Watch it soon!


Madduane said...

I saw this movie again a couple of years ago and was struck by its surreality & the many *great* sets used. The clinic. for instance, is so bizarre and completey unrealistic, but it's really inventive and cool at the same time.

John said...

I have been looking for "The Making of 'The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,'" but alas, without success.

sfmike said...

Pauline Kael, the only movie critic who basically ever mattered, totally agreed with you.

@John: I want to see the opera that's been made out of "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant," the best Fassbinder movie ever. "The Making of..." would probably be his 1971 "Beware of a Holy Whore."

lebecka said...

Zardoz is one of my husband's favorite movies of all time. You're right. It's weird.

z7q2 said...

Color theming a movie seems pretty rare these days, with everyone trying to go for a maximum glowy multicolor effect, seemingly designed to make mpeg compression algorithms weep in despair when the final product goes to cable.

My favorite color themed movie is still 'The Conversation' - every shot in the movie is black, white and blue with a little bit of red somewhere.