Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Three pennies for your thoughts, Comet Holmes

Three pennies for your thoughts ... The play or operetta or musical – your call - known as The Three Penny Opera is something of a pivotal piece. It placed the low class, the Underworld, in an artistic light, which had been done before, but this was a very modern take on hopelessness, with expressionist vim and lights-out high culture alienation courtesy of Bert Brecht, and sweet sounding dolefulness courtesy of Kurt Weill. Gordon Thomas’ latest column on BrightLights reviews a new edition of the august Pabsts’ 1929 film of Three Penny.

I saw this flick once. It was truly an early talkie.. and burdened thereof. The medium was not up to handling such a musical at that point I’d guess. Visually it was a murk too, not crisp, like, say Dr. Mabuse. But Gordon says things cleared up on this thanks to Criterion's new high-definition transfer. “Its clarity wondrous, its range of blacks and middle values simply gorgeous.” Bravo! The version I saw was like an old Kinescope. Is that a word?

It is a gangster or underworld musical. Gordon points to the problem of not enough song. Maybe that is what drove me to sleepiness when I first saw this flick. But German is kind of foreign to me – not a problem with silents. As I said, I don’t think the infant talkies were up to the task of doing Weill well. Its all ajar anyway .. the difficult meld of music and narrative. And Gordon points to the mechanisms say Bob Fossse applied in Cabaret, that might have made a more favorable film than the Pabst Three Penny Opera of 1929.

Let’s think: I’d add a couple of favorites of mine here to the consideration, with a little leeway, of the genre of gangster musical: Oliver and Mugsy Malone. Hey, is it me or does Mack the Knife sound like the Skater’s Waltz?

Actually this was an article. Gordon’s column is elsewhere and it is another doozy. Who else discusses films such as She, The Young Rajah, Hoodoo Ann and True Heart Susie, and The Call of Cthulhu – a recent [2005] silent created by the H.P Lovecraft Historical Society? I pause for your response.

Three Penny - BrightLights
BrightSights column - BrightLights




Meanwhile, in space….Hey weird but I picked up on this Comet known as Comet Holmes Periodic. Which is visible in the NorthEast out here on clear nights and elsewhere too. Weird because it is more like a cloud than a thing with a tale, at least with my binoculaurs. Hope the neighbors don’t see me..P. Sherrood took this CCD pick Oct 27.



1 comment:

Gordon Thomas said...

Hey, Jack,

Thanks for the great plug.

Interestingly, the original backers of the film Three Penny Opera wanted a more or less straight rendition of the Brecht/Weill stage work because the thing was raking in so much money. But Pabst blew off this concept in favor of a straight forward narrative, necessitating much less music.

One small correction: the film was released in 1931, not 1929.

I'm in your debt again.

Gordon

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