Mirrors

Posted on Tuesday, April 05, 2011, under , ,


House of Mirrors
 
Tall and thin or short and fat
On the fairgrounds where it’s at
House of Mirrors is the name
Don’t you miss it be a shame
Silly shapes believe it’s true
Mirrors make a fool of you.

by Geoffrey Schmitt



My first ever visit to the house of mirrors the other day at the Kobe amusement park, reminded me of couple of great flicks in which mirror labyrinths play a big role. They are, of course, ‘The Lady from Shanghai’ (1948), dir. Orson Welles, and ‘Enter the Dragon’ ('73), a classic Bruce Lee feature. Orson's masterpiece was originally intended to run over two hours (presumably bringing much in-depth dialogue and characterization to it). That the Hollywood big shots are very good at butchering wonderful scripts in pursuit of financial profit is no news, as the following extract attests:

The early script of The Lady from Shanghai is dated August 17, 1946, when the film was still titled Take This Woman. At that point, Welles was still basing all the action for the film in New York City and on nearby Long Island, which were the same settings used in the novel by Sherwood King, entitled If I Die Before I Wake.

For anyone who knows the work of Orson Welles, this first draft also includes many wonderful references, such as this passage that begins on page 15, where Michael O’ Hara and the “notorious” Mrs.Bannister discuss Don Quixote, which naturally, was completely cut out of the film when it was finally released (at 87 minutes), by Columbia in 1948:

CLOSE TWO SHOT – MICHAEL AND THE GIRL
THE GIRL There’s a police car —
MICHAEL We’re just comin’ out of the park, the horse and cart’ll make it too simple for the cops to be findin’ us —
He pulls up to a lamp-post.
MEDIUM SHOT – THE CARRIAGE
Michael gets out of the carriage and hitches the horse to the lamp.
THE GIRL You don’t care for them very much, do you, Michael?
MICHAELThe cops? (somberly) Faith, they can struggle along without our doin’ their work for ‘em.
He helps the girl down out of the carriage, then bows to the horse.
MICHAEL (continuing) Farewell, Rosinante.
THE GIRL That sounds like my name. (smiles)
He takes her arm.
TRUCKING SHOT — MICHAEL AND THE GIRL
They start walking.
MICHAEL Sure, Rosinante’s a horse in a book. You’re Rosaleen.
THE GIRL Who’s she?
MICHAEL A girl in a book.
THE GIRL I remember — Rosinante was the old nag Don Quixote rode when he went out after those windmills. I think you’re a lot like Don Quixote, yourself Michael. You haven’t heard about the age of chivalry. It’s out of business.
MICHAEL The tough boys that went after you in the park — they didn’t look like windmills to me —
THE GIRL They weren’t. I’m sorry, Michael, I guess you’re really what you think you are.
MICHAEL Whatever’s that now?
THE GIRL A knight errant — a real live knight errant. When you were a boy, you read all about them, didn’t you, Michael? And you never got over it.
MICHAEL (with a quizzical grin) You mean I never grew up? And what, can you tell me, does a knight errant do for his livelihood?
THE GIRL Oh, he doesn’t bother much about earning a living. He spends most of this time rescuing maidens in distress. He always slays the dragon and saves the princess, and he makes the prettiest speeches. But you’d better be careful. Things have changed, Sir Knight. Nowadays it’s usually the dragon that lives happily ever after.
MICHAEL Don’t the princess and the knight ever make it?
THE GIRL Sometimes she gives him a kiss.
Michael just looks at her, terribly embarrassed. A funny little spark comes into her eye.
THE GIRL (continuing) Michael… You know what’s wrong with being a knight errant?
MICHAEL No.
THE GIRL He’s brave and bold because his heart is pure. But he’s an awful fool — He doesn’t know anything about women.
She takes his hand and leads him to the street corner.
THE GIRL (continuing) If I hadn’t seen the way you can fight, I’d say you spend all your time reading.
MICHAEL A sailor has nothin’ but time, Faith. So must a girl ridin’ all by herself in a carriage in the lonesome dark. You must have time, and to spare.
THE GIRL (quietly) No, I haven’t much time… (after a minute — she’s been thinking) You don’t like the police, Michael. Is there some reason why they don’t like you?
MICHAEL (darkly) They’ve never put me in jail — in American.
By now they have stopped at the street corner.
THE GIRL My car’s a block down that way…
MICHAEL The nicest jails are in Australia. The worst are in Spain.
THE GIRL You must be a naughty boy, Michael.
MICHAEL I’m careless.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

source: http://www.wellesnet.com/?p=858

The movie has to have one of the best-matched opening and closing lines ever:

START: 
When I start out to make a fool of myself...
...there´s very little can stop me.
END: 
Well, everybody is somebody´s fool.
The only way to stay out of trouble is to grow old.
So I guess l´ll concentrate on that.
Maybe l´ll live so long...that l´ll forget her.
Maybe l´ll die trying.

Here are the 'highlights' of the film, featuring of course the Shanghai Ladyship herself (Rita Hayworth), amidst those fateful mirrors. 


The music is provided by The Black Keys song 'Ten Cent Pistol', made more than 60 years after the movie and yet it blends well with the post-war noir atmosphere. These lyrics in particular: 

There's nothing worse
In this world
Than payback from a
Jealous girl
The laws of man
Don't apply
When blood gets in
A woman's eye

Well, she hit them with her ten cent pistol
Because they ruined her name
Well, she hit them with her ten cent pistol
And they've never been the same

April 05, 2011

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