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March 1995, Week 5


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Shawn Levy <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 29 Mar 1995 17:03:32 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>Allthough, I won't doubt of De Palma's erudition, I wonder why he pre-
>tended on the Festival of Venice that Potemkin and Eisenstein have nothing
>to do with it, while, IMHO, the idea of the pram is imitation (parody=
>transformation). Consequently, my conclusion is: pure plagiarism.
>But what with De Palma's alibis: the sailors. Coincidence or acknowledging
>reference? Maybe is De Palma a bee that can only steal from others and
>transform it into something delicious?
>I don't expect a full answer, I'll be satisfied with some thoughts.
I'm a partisan of De Palma's -- and especially of "The Untouchables" -- and
I've given this allusion a great deal of thought.
But I'm in a hurry this morning, so let me just make a few short points:
  1) De Palma's Venice comments are merely public relations talk. Of course
he wouldn't explain the relation of his sequence to Eisenstein's in detail.
Who among the newspaper reporters in the room would be prepared to
understand and/or report on it accurately?
  2) To see what the train station sequence has that makes it bear more
importantly on the rest of "The Untouchables," you need only watch the film
again for the MANY uses of staircases in it. There are staircases in Ness'
house, in Capone's hotel, in the police station, in the courthouse. It
seems to me that the law (Ness, Stone, the police station) is always
associated with STRAIGHT staircases, while evil (Capone, the courthouse) is
associated with more serpentine staircases. The ultimate act of police work
and goodness -- the train station sequence -- takes place on a staircase, of
course. But, ironically, Ness chases Nitti up a serpentine staircase in the
courthouse JUST BEFORE KILLING HIM. This indicates that Ness must partake
of corruption before he can defeat it. Indeed, he says as much to the judge
after Nitti's death: "I have become the thing I beheld," etc.
  3) Eisenstein's baby dies (presumably); De Palma's is saved by the
squeakiest clean character in the movie. I take that as a HUGE difference.
  4) Eisenstein's baby is crying; De Palma's baby is laughing, enjoying the
ride, in fact. My pal Bill Krohn of "Cahiers du Cinema" has suggested to me
that De Palma's baby is, in fact, a substitute for the spectator, enjoying
the rush of the action film as it transpires.
  Hope this is helpful....
     Shawn Levy | "In a far recess of summer
 [log in to unmask] | Monks are playing soccer."