Tuesday, October 03, 2006

New Guest Oeuvre: John Carpenter (see side panel)


What can I say? He's made more guilty pleasures than any other director I know, except maybe Brian De Palma. We'll do him soon. Almodovar too, once I've seen a few more of the early ones...

I'll leave you with that magnificent line from the splendid They Live (above): "I've come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum..."

God bless you John!

8 comments:

Addison DeWitt said...

No reason to make Carpenter or DePalma guilty pleasures. They are both very fine filmmakers.

Perhaps you overestimate Dark Star and underestimate Halloween (a film that has exerted a far greater influence on all sorts of filmmakers than, say, Pedro Almodovar's films) and especially Christine.

tim r said...

Yeah, Christine nearly got a B minus. I do like it despite the ropiness of the source material, surely one of Stephen King's weakest books. The movie might go up a notch next time I see it; I remember Keith Gordon being truly terrific.

I do prefer Dark Star, my favourite of all stoner comedies and the most beautifully lonely space flick, to Halloween, which is very obviously influential but just the faintest touch mechanical, I think. It invented formulae, but formulae is what they are, and it's mainly interesting to me as a technical exercise.

I have no guilt championing JC and BDP's best films, by the way, but the point is that even their worst ones are oddly alluring.

Nick Davis said...

(It is amazing how blithely conditioned I have become to imagining these eloquent film analyses pouring forth from a brown and white dog. Or, as John Carpenter might have it, In the Mouth of Molly. Surely the most cinema-literate pooch on the planet.)

(Carry on.)

Goran said...

Since when does influential equal great? If you want me to appreciate Halloween - and I do (though to a limited degree) - you want to play down the rip offs.

I've only seen two other Carpenters - Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing. I found the dialogue and the acting in Assault exceptionally wooden and the child murder redundant, but it still kept me glued to the screen, Guilty pleasure is correct.

The Thing I'm also mixed about - a few tense setpieces mixed in with an amount of gore that could only be intended as a joke. And ultimately it isn't half as eerie as the 1951 version of the story.

tim r said...

But it's much bolder conceptually. I don't know why Hawks and Nyby abandoned the body-snatcher conceit of the original story — without it, theirs is just an efficient B-movie about safety in numbers. In Carpenter's version there's no safety in numbers, which I think gives it far more resonance. For what it both keeps and adds, it's one of those remakes that justifies the remake.

addison dewitt said...

I wonder which film or filmmaker isn't ripping off some predecessor, Goran?

Halloween dragged the modern horror flick out of its insistence on looking as frightening as its narrative. Literally. On a tiny budget and in the days before over-reliance on DI, Carpenter applied a bravura professionalism to the genre and made it respectable. For me, this alone qualifies him as something other than a guilty pleasure. He also, crucially, picked up the gauntlet thrown down by a few others and fully developed a sense of humor in the horror genre.

He, along with Raimi, Hooper and Romero before him, also understood that effective horror depends upon tapping into primal (and primarily elementary and visceral) fears: the boogeyman, the dark, the dead, sluts vs. saints. Period.

Carpenter is both great in his way, and influential. I would agree with you that influential doesn't necessarily equate with greatness, as any number of academic filmmaker favorites tend to prove. There's also a pretty big difference between being "influential" with critics and the like and being influential with your peers. Carpenter's never had the former but he's always had the latter, which is worth far more in the "great" stakes than any grumbling analyses people like you and me can provide.

addison dewitt said...

I wonder which film or filmmaker isn't ripping off some predecessor, Goran?

Halloween dragged the modern horror flick out of its insistence on looking as frightening as its narrative. Literally. On a tiny budget and in the days before over-reliance on DI, Carpenter applied a bravura professionalism to the genre and made it respectable. For me, this alone qualifies him as something other than a guilty pleasure. He also, crucially, picked up the gauntlet thrown down by a few others and fully developed a sense of humor in the horror genre.

He, along with Raimi, Hooper and Romero before him, also understood that effective horror depends upon tapping into primal (and primarily elementary and visceral) fears: the boogeyman, the dark, the dead, sluts vs. saints. Period.

Carpenter is both great in his way, and influential. I would agree with you that influential doesn't necessarily equate with greatness, as any number of academic filmmaker favorites tend to prove. There's also a pretty big difference between being "influential" with critics and the like and being influential with your peers. Carpenter's never had the former but he's always had the latter, which is worth far more in the "great" stakes than any grumbling analyses people like you and me can provide.

NATHANIEL R said...

i agree that influential doesn't necessarily equal praiseworthy (in any medium) but i haven't seen enough Carpenter to comment at all so I'll just be moseying along now...