Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another Metropolis release

Wonderful news - the 1984 Georgio Moroder version of Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' will be released on dvd and blu-ray later this year! This one provokes a lot of controversy, but I'm going to be out buying a copy as soon as it's available. I still have the VHS tape of the movie, which was one of my first videotape purchases - I bought it when we were living in Washington, DC, right after we were married. It was expensive - about $80 US, and that's when American dollars were worth a lot more than Canadian ones! Of course it's not as clean and sharp as the modern Kino restorations, but you have to take the era into account - this was long before the use of computers to digitally "repair" damaged film. Back in those days, they were pretty much restricted to just cleaning the physical film in a chemical bath, and then transferring it to a more stable medium. This was the very beginning of the movement to restore silent movies - actually, I think the French were the first on the scene with Abel Gance's 'Napoleon' and Mosjoukine's 'Casanova'. Then the Germans took over and drove the development of the hi-tech methods they have today.

I know the music is a bit dated, but for me this doesn't matter - I've never followed development in modern music anyway, so I'm not aware of the trends following each other, the way someone who actually LISTENED to this stuff would be. To me it's just "soundtrack music", and I connect it purely to the movie - if these songs had a life outside Metropolis, I was never aware of it. And even though I have all the modern restored versions with the original Huppertz orchestral score, there are a few scenes that in my mind I still "hear" with the Moroder score. The scene with the Robot first walking down the walkway to meet Joh Fredersen, for example - Huppertz writes a sort of tinkly score for this, rather reminiscent of 'Coppelia'. I like Moroder's version - soft, discordant electric piano chords matching each footfall - it's creepier and more menacing.

There's not too much from this version of the movie available on YouTube, but here's the trailer:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Another birthday

My 52nd birthday yesterday. I'm getting very decrepit - I think I'm getting the first twinges of arthritis in my thumb and forefinger, and I've developed a painful cramp in my right leg. I think it's a mental thing, actually - anxiety because the new school year is about to start and I'll be driving again, and I'm the worrying kind. Sometimes the leg is fine, then I'll think about driving and it seizes up again - I'm sure it's just tense muscles, but I wish I could just unthink the tension, because it hurts!

Dean gave me a very nice assortment of soaps and bath products, and Emma gave me a bead bracelet and a box of fudge from her new favorite shop downtown. I made a peach pie for dessert, but can you believe it, Dean and I drank a bottle of champagne and forgot all about it! I'm not used to drinking anymore, and 2 glasses left me feeling positively looped. But it was a good preparation for watching the MST3K episode "Riding With Death" - it's only on my birthday that Dean would agree to watch that episode, because it's SO incredibly lame, but I love all the banter between Mike and the bots.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Yo ho ho

Remember the post I did awhile back about my subtitles for Marguerite de la nuit? I still think that's my best subtitle project, but just last month I finished another that comes a close second: Juliette, or Key of Dreams, by Marcel Carné. It has that fantasy theme that I like so much; in this story, the hero is in jail and dreams that he's in a strange little village where nobody can remember anything. He's looking for the girl he loves, and when he finds her, naturally she can't remember him either. When he wakes up, he finds reality so unbearable he wants to go back to the Land Without Memory. It's unlikely that such an ending - being unable to face reality and seeking to escape - could count as a happy ending, but oddly enough, it is. I'm glad it ends the way it does, even though logically and morally it's not right. But the art manages to convince me that in this world, it's the right course of action.

Anyway, I burned some copies of the movie (with my subtitles) to send to friends and was looking for a brief synopsis online to put on the back of the cover, when I came across this site which had a pretty good paragraph describing the movie. But on looking a bit closer, I saw that they were selling a dvd of the movie. And what's more astonishing, the description reads "In French with English subtitles".

Now, there ARE no English subtitles for this movie, except for the ones that I wrote! I can conclude only one thing: these people are selling pirated, unauthorized copies of my unauthorized subtitles! And making money!

I became suspicious, and began looking up other titles. Sure enough, I found three more movies that I have written subtitles for:

Marguerite de la nuit
and Mademoiselle Doctor

All of these for sale. I suppose they have someone with a membership on Karagarga, and are able to download movies that they think would be interesting to collectors, and once a movie has English subtitles, it's definitely much more accessible to a wider public. I've seen a few other movies that I know other people have recently done the subtitles for, because on the forum everyone posts when they've finished a subtitle file.

Now I'm thinking that maybe *I* should sell copies of "my" movies - mine would be much better than this guy's because I've designed a dvd label and artwork for the case. And at least they're my own subtitles - maybe I could design a box set: "The Kraal Collection".

Anyway, I don't know if I should inform the Karagarga people, or if this is just so inevitable it's hardly worth making a fuss over. Made me a little indignant, though.

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's here!

My autographed copy of After America finally arrived today! Now I can start reading it, though it's butting up against another project: I'm translating and making subtitles for Le Capitaine Fracasse, a 1943 movie by Abel Gance. The movie was based on the 19th century novel of the same name by Gauthier, and I'm trying to READ the novel while I translate the movie. It's not that useful, because Gance does things his own way, so it's not the most precise adaptation. The broad story is the same, but he pretty much rewrote the entire dialogue and invented all sorts of amusing scenes around the bare skeleton of the original. August is "French Cinema Under the Occupation" month, so I want to finish the subtitles by the end of the month - not so easy when I can't get extended time at the computer, but I'll do my best.

It's actually not such a bad little movie - it's pretty much dismissed as pure escapism, but who wouldn't want to escape into "good dreams - cheap!" as the Pedant in the story puts it. It's the story of an impoverished young Gascon nobleman in the 1600s who runs away and joins a band of strolling actors. He falls in love with the ingenue of the company, but the villainous Duke de Vallombreuse takes a fancy to her and abducts her, so our hero has to rescue her. There's a subplot about the girl's real identity, as well, and lots of background scenes of life as an actor in the age of Louis XIII, as well as sword-fighting and intrigue. And I think there's a fair bit of Gance's own experience as a starving young actor in it. Anyway, it's not a masterpiece, but poor Gance only made a few of those; despite his phenomenal talent he didn't have much control over his projects as time passed, rather like Fritz Lang in Hollywood. But it's still fun, and there are some challenging passages written in rhyming alexandrines, like 'Cyrano de Bergerac' - I'll have to think hard to come up with some English rhymes.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Poor Barack's a-cold

Ace of Spades posted a Twitter comment from pollster Larry Sabato:
Obviously this is Obama's low point. Whether he recovers depends on unemployment and GDP more than SuperCommittee debt proposal.

Yes, the Dow just dropped over 600 points today (and 500 last Thursday), and the United States has lost it's AAA credit rating for the first time in history, but is it really obvious that Obama has hit bottom? I fully expect the bad news to continue and get worse, despite Obama's predictable money-throwing as he revs up his re-election campaign. I'm not at all sure that he'll go ahead with his re-election bid; on the one hand, he's a ravening egomaniac, and is surrounded by yes-men who'll never tell him that he might not be successful. On the other, he has a record of cutting and running when something gets hard; his fragile ego can't handle failure or rejection, so he pre-empts the possibility of either by escaping from dangerous situations. Of course, as president, there's no place to escape but down, but he might be able to talk himself into doing it. A narcissist like him will always try to hide from himself any fact that's damaging to his self image; he'd be able to tell himself he was "never defeated" if he just quits and refuses to run a second time. It's a shabby sort of "victory", but if it's the only one on offer, he'll take it.

Anyway, the economic news is bad enough; it's too much to expect that "events, dear boy, events" will demurely recede while America and its cockeyed captain struggle over the cashbox. This would be an excellent time for some terrorist outrages, and I think they may start appearing in the fall. (Tenth anniversary of 9/11 - what would be more appropriate?)

So I don't think this is "Obama's low point". I think it's the lowest point Obama has hit so far, but I expect him to entrance us even further with his ability to descend.
[Aside] O gods! Who is't can say 'I am at
the worst'?
I am worse than e'er I was.

And worse I may be yet: the worst is not
So long as we can say 'This is the worst.'

Friday, August 05, 2011

Great gift for Grandma

I've ordered my personalized copy of Mark Steyn's new book "After America". I asked him to inscribe it "To Dr. Mabuse", but now I wish I'd asked for "To Dr. Mabuse, The Blogger" as a play on the title of Fritz Lang's first great Mabuse film. Maybe next time, if there are enough printing presses still standing for Steyn to publish another volume.

He made a great appearance on Ezra Levant's show on Wednesday, the day after the GOP-Democrat Deal of the Century, and the day before the catastrophic stock market meltdown everyone was assured could only be averted by said deal.

One of the points he made, which he's made in a few essays over the past year, was that he keeps wondering "What's keeping the joint up?" I think I know: it's hypnosis. As long as people believe that they can spend more money than they possess the economy will continue defying gravity forever. But if those Tea Partiers succeed in sowing doubt, well...

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


So the U.S. Congress managed to cobble together some sort of quick fix to enable them to borrow another 2 trillion dollars. Not only do I have trouble writing about this, I have trouble thinking about it. I start feeling a genuine detachment from reality that is very scary.

The German word for it is "verrückt" - normally you'd translate that as "deranged". But there's a lovely illustration of just what it means in this clip from Fritz Lang's "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse".

The psychiatrist, Dr. Baum, is describing Mabuse's criminal career and subsequent mental breakdown (Mabuse is now an inmate in his asylum). At first he uses the more typical word for insane - "wahnsinnig" - but when he wants to describe exactly what happened to Mabuse's mind, he says "verrückt" and even employs a physical gesture with his hands. It's like the moment in an earthquake, when the ground shifts out of alignment. "Verrückt" is going off course, like a train flying off sabotaged tracks.

That's how I feel when I try to enter into the logic of Democrats yelling louder and louder for an increase in the amount of money they should be permitted to borrow. It's already one step from reality, because they're not arguing for a particular use for money that they already have. A few years ago, the cry went up for increased spending on "infrastructure". Our bridges are falling down! Our sewers are crumbling! Our roads are decaying!

Anyone can understand an argument between "We have to pour our money into this!" and "No, this is more important!" But the U.S. is far beyond such prosaic battles. Now we are in fantasyland: "We must be allowed to borrow more of somebody else's money! We can't live unless we get more of somebody else's money! We have to have it! NOW!!!" When I try to think of someone so deeply in debt they can't get out, insisting that a bigger, additional shovelful of debt will...somehow...fix everything, I have that almost physical feeling that something in my mind is faltering and slipping sideways. Verrückt. To try to argue with this: "But borrowing means paying back, and you've already borrowed up to 15 trillion dollars. If you need so much money that you have to borrow it, then when and how..." only provokes screams from the insane asylum: "No!! Give it to me! Give it to me! NOW NOW NOW NOW!!!" I truly don't think that you can negotiate or reason with people so deeply in the grip of insanity.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Off they go

Well, the birds left suddenly last week. I checked the nest one morning and found that one baby was gone - I was very worried, and looked on the ground, but there was no sign of it. I thought maybe it had fallen out and been eaten. But by the end of the day, ALL of them were gone. I looked up robin lifecycle online and found that baby birds jump out of the nest at the age of 13 days! I was so disappointed - I'd assumed that they'd be around for weeks, learning to fly, but it happens very quickly. Now they've gone and there's just a bare nest left behind. They were so entertaining. Here's the last picture I got, on the day they left: