Scene Unseen:
High Fidelity: Records For Sale

Film When I first saw the film High Fidelity I knew of the book and I knew it was about music, but I didn't know what it was actually about. I spent much of the preceeding day singing the chorus from The Kids From Fame song under my breath 'High Fidelity ... high ... ha ... high .. ha ha .. high high ... ' (I do this sometimes when I'm working up to see a film - Jane Campion's masterpiece was reduced to 'La, la, la, la Piano, Piano ...'). But once it was over it went straight into my all time top five films about people like me.

I immediately went out and read the book, loved everything about it despite being incredibly difficult to follow at times because the film characters were in my head and some of them are wildly different on the printed page. Then somewhere along the line the two experiences merged and I imagined that some of the scenes from the book had actually been in the film and vice-versa. Marie De Salle didn't sing at Championship Vinyl in the film any more than that version of Sarah Kendrew appeared in the novel. So buying the DVD the day it came out was something of a culture shock as the gates of filmic reality came crashing down.

As always, DVD solidifies all the reasons I loved the film at the cinema but also offers the chance to see all the details that I'd missed then. So we come to the top five list of things I missed when seeing High Fidelity at the cinema and which make me love the film even more. In ascending order ...

Number five ... lip liner. In the scene were Rob gets Laura to admit to a full 9% chance that they could get back together, I spend a lot of the scene looking at Laura's lips and the fragments of liner at the edges. In a film which is filled with unrealistic elements it feels like a moment of realism. I'm not sure if it's a mistake or a really attentive make up artist creating character details. If it is the latter it ties into comfortably into the speech with Rob gives at the end of the film about how he's sick of fantasy women and he wants to settle for the realism. Laura doesn't have perfect make up and that's why he loves her.

Number four. It's the editing, or rather the editing of the to-camera narration. If all this was edited into chronological order it would make less sense than 21 Grams. Taking the Marie De Salle incident, having found out Laura hasn't slept with Ray, he turns to the camera and says 'I feel good ... I feel great ... I feel like a new man ... I feel so much better in fact ... that I go straight out ... and sleep with Marie De Salle.' Cut to a post coital De Salle, and Rob pointing to camera from the bed 'How could this have happened you ask?' He's giving a voice over straight to camera like someone relating a story around a camp fire or over a beer in the past tense while the action is happening. He's telling the story to us while its happening to him, showing us what happened. It should be confusing but it really works. It's an unbelievably trixy thing to be doing in a Touchstone film and one of the early signs that mainstream film was wising up to the indie ethic.

Number three ... it's about film. Actually it's about anything that people have an obsession about. It's equally about stamp collecting, football and trainspotting. When I saw the movie, I thought I was getting bums rush because I didn't understand many of the music references. Then I tried substituting them for film references and realized that I was in the same bracket of these people. There aren't many regular people who can make a stab at putting Woody Allen's films in order by year, or the films which John Cusack and his mate Jeremy Priven haven't been in together (of which High Fidelity is one). It's about storing useless facts about nothing them looking down on people who don't know this stuff.

Number two, the track listing of the Marie De Salle album. Pause your DVD as Rob places the disc in his hifi and glory at the woman's musical range.

(1) Baby I Love Your Way [which is a given because its in the film and she sings it really well.]
(2) Patsy Cline Times Two [which later in the film she refers to as Eartha Kitt Times Two. But I'm not nitpicking in that way. There there is the rest ...]

(3) Ghostbusters
(4) Beat It
(5) Baby Got Back
(6) 911 Is A Joke
(7) I Will Survive
(8) Mmm Bop
(9) My Heart Will Go On
(10) You Can't Have It
(11) The Time Is Now

Now who wouldn't want to see her version of some of those songs. Such range. Is the joke that if she can make Peter Frampton sound good, Hanson are a walk in the park? These tracks were picked for a reason but since the DVD lacks a commentary we'll never know whose joke it was. And now for ...

... number one in the top five and the deleted scene which is the point of this new series of articles.

High Fidelity: Records For Sale

It's one of the great scenes in the book and was shocked when I read it because they hadn't included it in the film. Rob is invited around to an expensive house where a rich woman bent on revenge tries to castrate her husband musically by selling his singles collection off for peanuts. When Rob starts to delve in he realizes it's a collectors dream, a hundred items which he thought he would never see in his life. Rare pressings on original labels, that kind of thing. To buy or not to buy. It's about honour amongst collectors (even if they're shits) and fits in with one of the book's themes about how music has little to do with what you are its who you are.

So it was a revelation to see it on the dvd and its just the lovely funny thing which really does the book pages justice. It even has the well known face of Beverly D'Angelo as the scorned woman. And when you see it the first time you wonder why it wasn't included in the film - it would be one of the scenes people would be talking about when they left the cinema or years later at the pub because its one of those stories any collector has about the one that got away.

There problem is its four minutes long and to include it in the film would have slowed it to a standstill at just the wrong moment - I think it should gave gone in just after Joan Cusack calls him a 'fucking asshole'. And that would be wrong because the transition from that to Rob's revelations about why Laura broke up with him are perfect. Also it doesn't feel like the rest of the film, which takes place in roughly the one neighbourhood and for the tone of the film it's important to maintain that mood. Also it doesn't make any sense - right the way through we hear that Rob has no money and suddenly he can pull £1100 out to buy the singles - it's a capital investment but were are you getting it from? Laura's loan? Isn't that spent already?

All of which said it does have a delicious ending. He talks D'Angelo into selling him an Otis Reading for $50. She asks him if he saw The Sex Pistols (original pressing of God Save The Queen). He says he did. 'It's free ...' She says and we cut away. We never find out how scrupulous Rob actually is ... What would you do?

Scene Unseen:

Film I was reading an article the other day in an old film magazine I had lying around which listed the top one hundred best scenes in film and while most were undoubted classics it was boringly predictable. The 'You Talkin' To Me?' scene from Taxi Driver, Linda Blair's head spinning around in The Excorcist and the 'No, I'm Your Father!' bit from The Empire Strikes Back. I've always been a fan of the other moments which seems insignificant but could open up other possibities. For example, what might have happened in Travis Brickle had taken his date to see the Clint Eastwood film, The Eiger Sanction which is playing in the cinema across the street from the porn cinema he's attending instead -- could a relationship have actually developed?

Also, why aren't deleted scenes included in these surveys? Although they don't appear in the final film, in some cases they can be just as exciting, funny or moving as anything the director, editor or studio thought we might want to see and through DVD we can enjoy them as they stand and ponder how different the film could have been if it had been included. 'Scene Unseen' is new occasional series which will highlight some of these moments at the fringes of some popular and not so popular films with the hope that the reader will want to look at them with a new perspective (and it'll give me a reason to visit parts of my DVD collection I haven't been to for a while).
TV My So-Called Life is being rerun on one the larger US cable networks spawning a number of articles re-appraising the series. Television Without Pity's Sarah D. Bunting's My So-Called Reruns takes the view that that I've had now and then that the series wouldn't be quite so culty if it had gone on for another few series -- could it have continued to be so acute and insightful into a seventh or even eighth year? Menuel Mendoza notes that ...
Today, "My So-Called Life" would be a hit - if it got on the air in the first place and found a similar audience. Its average ratings of just under 9.9 million viewers would put it in front of Fox's "hit" soap "The O.C." by 600,000 viewers and with similar demographics, which is what really counts with advertisers.
Which underlines how undervalued the series was at the time. [both via tvtattle]
Life Overtime in work tonight for the first time in years, so a thirteen hour shift. I think the key phrase is never again. Liverpool City Centre is flooded with people in suits and hats from the Grand National meet and look pie eyed. I think I'm going to bed to watch Friends ...
Film It all started one day as I sat in The Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds watching Ba wang bie ji in a sold out screening getting excited by the machinations of Chinese opera. It was one of the saddest yet exciting films I'd ever seen. The following week, when someone shushed me during Como agua para chocolate because I was getting into the story, I knew what my first hobby/love/interest was.

My first film (at the cinema I think) was Pete’s Dragon of all things. From there I couldn’t say. My first conscious 18 film was Robocop which I saw on video when I was 13 or 14. I saw The Empire Strikes Back before Star Wars; my first film star crush was Virginia Madsen in Electric Dreams or possibly Elizabeth Shue in Adventures in Babysitting; The first film I recorded from the TV was Starcrossed the early James Spader classic; My first DVD was The Opposite of Sex. The second was Pleasantville. The first film I walked out of was Batman and Robin, which is probably the worst film I’ve ever seen.
Site News Or rather an apology. We had hoped to bring you the second part of the Liverpool FlashMob Story tonight, but due to circumstances beyond our control (I haven't written it yet) this will be shown instead at a later date.
TV The new Off The Telly publishes with a massive BBC 2 retrospective. Has it really been forty years? It's an absolutely rivetting piece of writing which does eventually underline the problem the channel has now -- what its for -- as in places it becomes a greatest hits of the the other three main BBC channels. What will its identity be like when all homes become digital?
Film The Passion of the Christ has a paradoxical status. Considering it’s a film spoken in two ancient languages, with subtitles which tells the story of the last twelve hours of a man’s life which is based upon of the important stories of the past two thousand years which features the minimum of characterization, Bergmanesque supernatural elements and an expectation of the audience that they will know that story already and that they will be able to follow some of the minutest religious references committed to film, it’s been released like a Hollywood blockbuster on hundreds of screens and the people going to see it seem to be treating the experience like any other film, taking to their seat with popcorn and coke. I’ve had conversations with people who say that don’t like watching subtitles films, or costume dramas, or horror films and they’ve every intention of seeing this and it's produced massive box office.

But its not a film I would recommend, not in the traditional sense, not in the sense that I’d tell everyone to go and see Zatoichi for example. It’s not a pleasant experience. Parts are horrific, taking body shock and torture to a new level. There are moments of shocking ambiguity in which it isn’t clear what is happening or why. I haven’t read many reviews which look at it in a traditional sense of how good the acting, music or cinematography are – even though in some cases all are extremely good and with some depth considering the short time frame within which they have time to develop.

With my complicated religious status I can’t really comment on how accurately the events are presented, or if everything is philosophically correct. It didn’t move me to convert (which I believe has happened to some viewers) or make me to want the film banned. Looking at it purely from this dispassionate place then, I was moved by Christ’s mother’s overall attempts to come to terms with what is happening to her boy. I can imagine that as Jesus grew and his conviction in who He was became clearer she could feel him slipping away from being her son to the Father of humanity. I was especially moved that the only time He simply becomes her son again is in death when he is taken from the cross and she claps him in her arms and she is able to comfort him. Ironically the film works best as a human story, about man’s inhumanity to himself and the cost.
Blogging in the style of .... Kottke's Remaindered links weblog

  • Future of the internet modelled on 'The Lawnmower Man'

  • Sir Peter Ustinov dies

  • Santa Fe

  • The First London Marathon was on this day in 1981

  • Archbishop says 'Footballers Wives' underlines everything that's wrong with morality in the UK (oddly enough I tuned in for the first time ever late the other night and Mark Gattis was doing a cameo as a sleazy agent type. Wierd but classic.)

  • Google redesigns (and for some reason feels a little bit sexier, if that's the term to use)

  • All of the actors who've played Him (my favourite is Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, God)
    . . . Old Grey Hare, The (1944))

  • Living in Europe (community weblog for people in my part of the world)

  • Education Nine year old schoolboy re-designs rail system in St Petersberg:
    "was the image of the notoriously traffic-clogged Ulitsa Bukharestskaya shown on television news that inspired Vadim Turgel, nine, to design an overhead railway to serve the whole city. "I thought it could save St. Petersburg from those terrible traffic jams," Turgel said. Turgel's railway, raised on inflated bags, is a sophisticated design and might just work, engineers who have examined the young inventors' proposal say.
    A new form of teaching was been developed in the old Soviet Union which discounted the idea of random inspiration in favour of a form of focused problem solving. TRIZ bombards kids with questions and asks them to think of a logical answer. So for example, ask them, 'What is wet on one side, but dry on another' they'll think it through and say a window with keeps the inside dry when it rains. This understanding can then be extrapolated to form the backbone for some new design or descovery. See if you can answer this one: "How to free a bird stuck in a vertical tube that sticks out of the ground?" (answer here)
    Life I've just posted the following question to AskMe but I'll put it up here to for anyone who's a non-member / disinterested. I'm bored with the World Wide Web. Can anyone help? Whenever I log on in the evening I seem to find myself looking at the same websites. I check my favourite weblogs, read the usual news sites, check through the trends at blogdex, check the visitors to the weblog, write said weblog then go to bed. For some reason it feels like I'm in a rut. Google searches 4,285,199,774 and I end up seeing the same twenty-five or so. Is this it? Has the web flat lined or would things be different if I was on broadband, and is dial-up my downfall? Can anyone suggest ways in which I can make my time online more interesting? Perhaps some websites they find invaluable or reliably interesting (beyond something you would post on the front page)? What else do you do online when you're not using Metafilter? I need web therapy ...
    Crime For some reason this reminds me of the Woody Allen film Take The Money and Run, which also featured a long timer, What Led a 92-Year-Old to a Life of Crime - Anger, Money Woes, One Last Adventure?:
    "Whatever the prompt, on Dec. 9, 1998, a week before his 87th birthday, Rountree entered the SouthTrust Bank in Biloxi, Miss. "I was kind of dumb about it. I just walked in and told the gal behind the counter to give me money," he said. "Then I told her not to say anything until five minutes after I left." But as the old man was making his getaway, someone followed him and he was arrested within minutes, according to police records. He was eventually given three years' probation, fined $260 and told to leave Mississippi."
    To be honest I wish I had this kind of energy now...
    Advertising As a rather confused reaction to reading Naomi Klein's No Logo you'll notice that I've signed myself up as an Amazon Associate. With any luck I'll generate enough gift vouchers to pay for the extended cut of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King when it's released.
    Life Can I have my hour back? What do you mean I have to wait six months?