Wednesday, August 12, 2009
"you do what you do out of necessity..."
CECIL B. DEMILLE b. AUGUST 12 1881
SAM FULLER b. AUGUST 12 1912
wow! i thought buck & porter were two ends of the spectrum!
i guess today is all about the establishment & its rebels. you could spend decades trying but your imagination couldn't invent the differences between film directors like demille & fuller. it's not just that fuller is so original either(though that plays a huge part). one thing that's absolutely correct about them is that they both loved spectacles. what sets them apart is how they conceived of the idea of what a spectacle is & how to present it to the viewer. i prefer fuller's version.
demille doesn't mean much to me, though he did mean a lot to hollywood during his day. he made one film i loved: the greatest show on earth. he was even nominated for best director for that film. demille's sense of spectacle is shallow, a debordian impulse towards the market & the simulacrum. the totalizing effect of one of his films, oddly, reminds me of coppola at his most venal(& there's lots of that). the larger view is the one that's spread the thinnest in demille's world. his technical vocabulary was pretty thin too.
thin, at least, when compared to the technical genius of the outsider, samuel fuller. the opening sequence of pickup on south street is still taught in film classes not only for its filmic technique but its writing too. i can tell you that you'll never see what's coming in his astonishing film, the naked kiss. it has one of the most incredibly fantastic moments i've ever seen in film(a de-wigged & bald prostitute beating her pimp into unconsciousness w/her handbag). fuller's idea of spectacle was what happened every day on the street or in ordinary people's minds. prostitutes, lunatics, child molesters, criminals of all kinds peopled fuller's cinematic world & he gave them full reign. his spectacle was what you'd never seen before, what you'd never dared dream & it was presented from the ground level up, as grimy as the gutter & as active & destructive as a f5 tornado.
fuller suffered the full ups & downs of hollywood but ultimately was run out of town never to direct again. his penultimate film, the big red one, showed he still had the chops & his last, white dog(a story about a dog who'd been programmed to attack black people)showed he still had his guts. the cowardly studio shelved the film & it wasn't shown for years. fuller moved to france & hung out w/the coolest of the cool european film directors(wenders, godard).
demille was all about the parting sea; fuller was all about shock corridor. demille embodied the hollywood system; fuller was a rebel who paid the price for rebellion. one was a great entertainer; the other was an artist.