FIRE FROM THE FIRE #9 

marcus pinn & john cribbs

 

john:

Hey, Marcus. I was just thinking about that time you were all over the tv for running into that burning warehouse that contained the entire filmography of five seminal filmmakers:

Leos Carax    Carl Dreyer    John Huston

George Lucas    Russell Mulcahy

What was the deal with that? I seem to remember you saying something about making choices based on "the greater good" of film history. Would you mind relating your adventure to our readers?

 

marcus:

On my way home from work one day, I noticed a big crowd of onlookers standing across the street from a burning building. I walked over to get a closer look and as it turns out, it was a warehouse containing the complete filmographies of John Huston, George Lucas, Leos Carax, Russell Mulcahy and Carl Dreyer. Kind of strange that those 5 directors would be grouped together in a warehouse in East Harlem, but whatever. The warehouse foreman came over to us and made an announcement that before the fire department comes, they would need one brave sacrificial black person with bushy sideburns to run in and save the 5 most important films out of the combined filmographies of the aforementioned directors. One by one I felt everyone's eyes slowly turn towards me. I guess I had no choice.

Immediately, I thought about no one but myself (I'm an only child, I can't help it) and decided I would only save movies that I personally cared about. I walked right past classics like The Misfits, The African Queen (such a misleading title), Five Easy Pieces and American Graffiti and grabbed Bad Blood and Lovers on the Bridge. I still have very high hopes that one day Criterion will add something by Leos Carax to their collection, so I couldn't very well let his entire filmography burn. And Dennis Lavant is a criminally underrated actor. The last thing I was about to do was let two of his finest performances go up in flames.

No sooner had I made my first selection, I stopped and thought about the angry mob that would be waiting for me outside. Once they saw that I picked Bad Blood and Lovers on the Bridge over films like THX and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, there'd be trouble. But I have the physique of an offensive lineman, so I figured I'd just bulldoze my way through everybody with the cans nestled aganist my chest before they got the chance to put their hands on me. I moved further into the building...

I walked past the Russell Mulcahy section because I had no idea who that was. Something told me I was gonna regret that later, but I didn't have too much time to think. The fire was getting worse and his name didn't register right away, so too bad for him. Besides, I had some John Huston movies to save.

Earlier I said I walked past some of his more classic films, but that didn't mean I was going to pass up his ENTIRE filmography. John Huston's catalogue is very large and he's got some gems that I feel don't get the recognition and respect they truly deserve. This warehouse fire was my chance to capitalize on that. I picked Reflections in a Golden Eye, an amazing Marlon Brando performance that people seem to have forgotten over the years because it's not The Godfather or Last Tango in Paris, and Fat City, which I think would make a great double feature with Aronofsky's The Wrestler. And I hate to bring up the Criterion Collection again, but for years there have been serious rumors of Fat City coming out on Criterion, a personal dream of mine. I also figured that a story like this - a man running in to a burning warehouse to save the films of directors like Huston and Dreyer - would make the news, and the people at Criterion would get wind of my heroic story and offer me a job.

As I made my way to the fifth and final movie, Ordet, I thought about how much of a dick I'd be if I let some of the most classic films in cinema history burn forever due to my selfishness. You know that scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure when the pet shop is burning down, and he doesn't want to save the snakes even though he knows he has to because it wouldn't be fair? That's kind of how I felt. At the last minute, I remembered that even if Lovers on the Bridge is one of Denis Lavant's finest performances, we still have Beau Travail, Mister Lonely (which also co-stars Leos Carax) and Unkle's "Rabbit in Your Headlights" music video as great examples of Lavant's talent.

I put Lovers on the Bridge and Bad Blood back, grabbed The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Star Wars, and made my way out of the burning warehouse. I hope me risking my life for Star Wars doesn't turn out to be a pointless gesture. I mean, what if someone else is put in the same situation and they have to save the films of the person who directed Empire Strikes Back or whoever directed Return of the Jedi (sorry, I don't know who directed either those movies) and they decide not to pick Empire or Return of the Jedi? It would be crazy for someone to do that, but there's still an outside chance it could happen.

So there you have it:

REFLECTIONS OF A GOLDEN EYE    FAT CITY    ORDET

STAR WARS    THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE

 

john:

I gotta say Pinn, that's pretty selfless of you. You should be nominated for the Irving Thalberg Award for the preservation of classic American movies (that's what the Irving Thalberg Award is, right? I genuinely have no idea.) Still, I'm curious about a few things.

First let's start with some notable snubs: Pola X, The Maltese Falcon, The Asphalt Jungle, Wise Blood, The Man Who Would Be King, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr, Day of Wrath, Gertrud. Do you feel any regret about leaving any of those behind?

And just so everybody knows, Russell Mulcahy is the Australian director of, among other things: Razorback, Highlander I & II, the Denzel Washington thriller Ricochet, Kim Basinger heist romp The Real McCoy and Alec Baldwin superhero adventure The Shadow. Knowing that now Marcus, how do you feel about leaving those titles behind to burn?

Also do you like Star Wars yourself, or are you saving it purely in the name of pop culture preservation? What about Treasure of the Sierra Madre?

 

marcus:

Well, as far as the last two choices go, Treasure of the Sierra Madre could just as easily have been The Misfits, The Maltese Falcon or The Asphalt Jungle. Huston is a legend, so I felt the need to save one of his true classics. I ended up picking Fat City and Golden Eye, not only because they're two of his most underrated movies, but I do love them a lot, especially Fat City.

I'll be honest: I saw Wise Blood for the first time about a year ago when I bought the Criterion dvd. It's a good movie, but I don't think I have the same attachment to it that others do, since I've only started watching it for a year now. I'm sure my opinion on it will change in the future.

As far as the Dreyer films go, it's kinda the same reasoning, although I actually watch his films now more regularly than Huston's classic stuff. After watching and re-watching all the essential Dreyer stuff over the last couple of years, I've been attached to Ordet the most. I think many people would consider Joan of Arc or even Vampyr his "classics", but Ordet is my favorite of his at the moment. Of course I feel regretful about leaving his films behind, especially Day of Wrath, but I could only take so many movies with me.

I feel the MOST regret for leaving behind all of Carax's work, not just Pola X. Now that I've had time to think, maybe I shoulda thought about myself in the end. I can't remember the last time I watched Treasure of the Sierra Madre or even Star Wars. I watched Bad Blood and Pola X pretty recently.

I really do like Pola X. I guess I could've at least mentioned it, huh? It's from that group of French films from the late 90's and early part of the last decade that I love so much (L'humanite, I Stand Alone, Irreversible, Baise Moi, etc etc.)

I guess I am a little broken up about Highlander, but not that much. I recognize Highlander's importance and cult status, but it's still not really my thing. A lot of nerdy people love those movies. LOL, I could kinda care less about Richochet (I loved that movie when i was a little kid tho), The Shadow or any of that other stuff.

I guess you could call Star Wars peer pressure, LOL. I honestly hate going with popular choices but no matter what, Star Wars was a part of my childhood just like it was with many other people. 

 

john:

Well spoken, sir. I am certainly one of those nerdy people who still clings to his pulpy love for Star Wars and Highlander (which I'll go into in more detail in the next installment of Lambertathon.) But at the same time, at 32 years old, I feel like I'd be put in a similar, potentially selfish situation were I the bushy-sideburned black man those people tasked to run into that burning warehouse. Instead of feeling pressure to save movies that end up on every AFI list in favor of those I truly love, I think I'd actually be tempted to destroy those which I had such strong nostalgic ties to. It's selfish because those films would be forever preserved in my mind - I could probably recite either movie line for line backwards - and I would never again find myself forced to face their obvious flaws. Even if the original Star Wars went up in flames (which some might suggest to be an acceptable sacrifice to rid mankind of those prequels), the world would still be littered with Star Wars t-shirts, mugs, stickers, bedsheets, lunchboxes, action figures, legos, models, comic books, fan fiction, Halloween costumes, lightsaber chopsticks, Jabba the Hut bean bag chairs, R2-D2 salt shakers, Spaceballs and "Saturday Night Live" parodies. They'd be like dinosaur fossils of our generation. I kind of like that idea, honestly.

I confess a fondness for The Asphalt Jungle and the ultimate celebrity hang-out movie Beat the Devil, although there are arguably better heist movies and three recent Ocean's Eleven films that have become the new ultimate celebrity hang-out films. I guess I should be glad this warehouse doesn't stock Huston's acting appearances, or I'd be forced to consider Chinatown, Winter Kills and J Lee Thompson's Battle for the Planet of the Apes. For me the most difficult decision would be choosing between three late period Hustons: Fat City, The Man Who Would Be King and The Dead. Although I have very little reverence for Huston as a filmmaker, I think The Man Who Would Be King is truly the last great classic Hollywood movie.

Dreyer would have to survive. Ordet, Day of Wrath and Gertrud would probably be the first movies I saved. That said, the one and only time I tried to watch Joan of Arc I kept falling asleep. Every time I woke up I was angry that nothing had apparently happened between the time I dozed off and shook myself awake. This is an embarrassing thing for somebody who considers themselves a serious lover of films to admit, but I hated that movie for several years. It's due for a Second Chances, I guess. But in the meantime I'd have to give the final slot to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which features Bogart's best performance and that immortal "Badges?" line without which the world would not understand great reference gags in Blazing Saddles and UHF.

john's picks: The Man Who Would Be King, Ordet, Day of Wrath, Gertrud and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

chris' picks: Passion of Joan of Arc, Razorback, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Asphalt Jungle and Ordet

 

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