Tuesday, August 10, 2010

MM@M: Deneuve & Godzilla Gamera, Cinema Giants

I never thought I'd see anyone on Mad Men shouting "MONSTER!" at a movie screen but that's why Mad Men at the Movies is great fun to write. You never know what's coming.

Episode 4.3 "The Good News"
In this episode, Joan focused for once (yay Christina Hendricks!) the worlds curviest office manager handles her confusing marriage with surprise tenderness and her career with less control than usual, her temper flaring. Meanwhile, Don (Jon Hamm) travels to see his first ex-wife and gets very bad news. He returns home early, ditching a planned Apaculpco vacation. Come the middle of the holiday afternoon, Lane (Jared Harris) and Don are already drunk and planning a boys night out.
Don: [drunk, with mouth full] We're going to the movies.
Lane: Do you think we should?
Don: Does Howdy Doody have a wooden dick? [reading from newspaper] Zorba the Greek -- seen it, but would see it again. It's a Mad Mad Mad World -- no kidding. Send Me No Flowers?
Lane: No.
Cut to: Different office. The movie ads have switched hands. Don is pouring a drink, missing the flask entirely.
Lane: The Guns of August!
Don: I hate guns and I hate August.
Lane: It's all over the rug!
Don: Then we''ll have to smoke the dress.
Lane: Don't know that one. [Back to paper] The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
Don: [pause for entirely appropriate internal actress reverie] Catherine Deneuve.
Lane: ...apparently it's for all the young lovers of the world.
[cut to:..]

Heyyyy, that's not Catherine Deneuve! No, the boys have chosen a Godzilla movie. Or wait is that Gamera? Some folks online are saying Gamera (the trailer) but that came out after this episode takes place. edit: I thought it was Mothra vs. Godzilla, which would be in the right US release time frame... but the more I look at it, yes, Gamera. My god I used to love those movies as a kid on the telly. But they all bleed together. Seriously, if you've seen one giant monster crushing Japan...

Lane and Don are now even more inebriated and loudly talking through the movie.
Don: You know what's going on here don't you? Hand jobs.
Lane: Really? What percentage do you think.
Angry moviegoer: Do you mind?
Lane: [shouts politically incorrect Japanese gibberish at angry moviegoer. Then points at the screen and shouts] ...MONSTER !!!
Drunk Lane is hilarious -- Don even thinks so. It's so rare to see him laugh! -- finally giving Jared Harris something to work with for the first time since he fired everyone in Season 3. He later will hold a slab of well done steak against his crotch and shout about his Texas sized belt buckle. This episode has four dick jokes. No joke. Season 4, only 3 episodes in, is already infinitely more crass than the previous seasons but the 1950s era propriety is beginning to slip away from virtually all of the characters save possibly old timey youngster Pete Campbell. But he's blue blood.

Anyway... the movies!

We relate to Don's reverent invocation of Catherine Deneuve. This is Deneuve circa 1964 on the set of Cherbourg.

But, really, whichever year you capture her in, she's a breathtaker. Deneuve has to be among the twenty or so greatest movie stars that the planet ever produced, n'est-ce pas?.

We're betting that even if Don hadn't yet seen The Umbrellas of Cherbourg -- it opened in NYC two weeks prior to this episode's time frame -- he'll get to it soon enough. He likes the foreign films. And if you haven't yet seen Umbrellas, better get to it. It's only one of the greatest movies of all time. Plus it's a colorful musical and we like those. It also holds one of those rare Oscar distinctions of being nominated for statues in two separate years (before they changed the rules to prevent foreign films from doing so). It was France's Oscar submission in 1964 and won a Best Foreign Film nomination. In 1965, when it was presumably released in LA during the traditional eligibility period, it was nominated for four more Oscars, three music categories and best screenplay. Today's rules would have stopped the second batch of nominations, since a Foreign Film nomination preceding your release renders you ineligible for other nods (see the Aughts case of Hero for a rather famous example. The current rules also mean that France's A Prophet and Argentina's The Secret in Their Eyes cannot be nominated in any category for the upcoming Oscars even though they opened in the States during the 2010 eligibility period.)

About the other rejected movies.

  • The Guns of August opened on Christmas Eve in NYC in 1964. It was a documentary based on a Pulitzer Prize winning book. This isn't the first time I've noticed an actual illustration of a book on an old movie poster. Could you imagine a movie today advertising itself with a photo or drawing of a book? Even Harry Potter and Twilight wouldn't risk that!
  • Send Me No Flowers was one of Doris Day's many popular hit romantic comedies with gay co-stars. Excuse me gay co-star. No plural.
  • Zorba The Greek was released in December 64 and was a big hit with Oscar voters. Antonio Banderas will be reviving this Oscar nominated title role on the Broadway stage soon.
  • It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (Don left out one of the "Mad"s) was an all star comedy that was actually released a holiday release the year prior to this episode but movies used to stay in theaters much longer. Anyway, it was the biggest box office hit of 1964... at least according to my ancient book Box Office Champs: The Most Popular Movies of the Past Twenty Years which covers the years from 1939 through 1989. (I must have bought it shortly after I decided to live and breathe cinema. I blame Pfeiffer on that piano top. It's all her fault.) The book tells me that the movie "brought together virtually every living Hollywood comedian from Buster Keaton to The Three Stooges to Jerry Lewis. But it opted all too often for tired slapstick gags instead of moments of genuine wit. On balance, it was funny -- clearly it was a hit with audiences -- but so much talent should have produced something so much better." GEE, THAT DOESN'T DESCRIBE ANY OF TODAY'S COMEDIES!
Which movie would you have picked to see?

With its pared down cast (only Joan, Lane and Don get any play) and weirdly aborted vacation sequences, the episode aired to some unusually charged online griping. Maybe the naysayers wanted the show to stay in 1960 with its original cast and character dynamics for its entire run? It's true enough that the show has lost parts of itself that we loved but there is no way to stop the world from spinning. And the times they are definitely changing.

Best Moment / Line
The finale. Five ad men are seated for a department head meeting. Joan Holloway Harris sits at the head of the table. "Gentlemen, shall we begin 1965?" With all of their personal lives spinning rapidly towards destinations unknown, 1965 is beginning whether or not they're ready for it.

Further Reading
Mad Men Unbuttoned explains that Harry "Hollywood Brown Derby" scene
Omega Level got great screenshots and thinks Don & Lane's big night out was the funniest 8 minutes of MM ever.
Time Abortion legalities from December 1964
The New Republic Matt Zoller Seitz thinks "The Good News" was Mad Men's first bad episode.


David Coley said...

Just found out who Jared Harris's father is. Great pedigree there. I've really liked his character so far.

adri said...

I've seen all those movies except Guns of August. And I have to say, It's a Mad World is screamingly funny. Not everyone laughs at the same parts, but there's a section for everyone. And Alan Bates is actually the narrator lead in Zorba, and is great as always.

Deneuve is always gorgeous at whatever age. Her sister, Francois D'Orleac, was also beautiful.

They have a thing in France where the Spirit of the Republic is embodied in a woman named Marianne. They choose a Frenchwoman and for a a period of years, all sculptures and representations (stamps, coins, etc) of Marianne are made in that woman's image. Deneuve was chosen to represent Marianne, as was Brigitte Bardot.

Jude said...

I'd have to go for Send Me No Flowers. Who doesn't like Doris Day and Rock Hudson!?

Michael said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Umbrellas about a girl who is knocked up by her lover right before he is sent off to war?

Are we perhaps seeing some foreshadowing for Joan?


Michael C --- ooh. good call. we shall see.

Anonymous said...

Zorba all the way, after seeing Anthony Quinn's TCM Private Screenings. But I wouldn't be watching it if I was drinking old English liquor.

And Joan versus Lane is the best part of the episode.

Deborah said...

Okay, I have to nitpick. He doesn't miss the glass when he pours; he's pouring into a flask. Which he misses a lot of, but it's harder to do.

And then it's "Then we'll have to smoke the dress."

BeRightBack said...

I tried to post this earlier, but I guess links are a no-no now?

Anyway, it is definitely Gamera, if you look at the Japanese trailer you can even see the scene they watch, or one very like it. Which means it's a slight anachronism (Japan release: 1965, US: 1966), but thematically resonant with turtle-like Pryce coming out of his shell in the big city with radioactive Don.

(I apologize if this ends up showing up as a repeated post. The internets are being recalcitrant today!)

Rose said...

La Deneuve is always a welcomed edition to any post. Her beauty in Umbrellas of Cherbourg (or an anything, but especially in her early years) is unbelievable, almost to the point that it's hard to believe she's real. I oftentimes find myself having to rewind movies she's in because I get too distracted by her face at the expense of the plot line. It's flawless!


wholesale cheap ed hardy chothes said...

Deneuve is always gorgeous at whatever age. Her sister, Francois D'Orleac, was also beautiful.

cal roth said...

I think it's weird to describe The Umbrellas of Cherbourg as a colorful musical. It is, but to say that as a first reference to it is to miss the point: this is one of the saddest movies ever made.

It's not like you going to see it and become full of joy and get out singing and dancing after the movie is over. You're gonna cry hard and your heart is gonna skip a lot of beats.

You're going to spend a whole week or a month thinking about how cruel life can be, specially in dangerous times when war destroy lives and separate lovers and how one sometimes just can´t put his life together after the damage is done, no matter how much it hurt to see the love of your life married with some guy with a kid that could be yours.

Come on, this movie is so dark and bleak, and most of Demy's. I really can't understand how his movies can be so devastating with this "colorful" make-up. Have you seen Lola & and its marvelous sequel, Model Shop? It's like cut your wrists.

Anyway, you and the joy of a colorful musical Demy style, go and see The Young Girls of Rochefort, with Deneuve and her sister, Françoise Dorléac. And Gene Kelly, in French! It's sublime.

par3182 said...

i'd choose send me no flowers; rock hudson and tony randall on a man hunt is endlessly entertaining

(lane's definite "no" made me laugh out loud)

i really liked this episode; even with the extended comedy of the drunken duo it was so infused with repressed pain and regret that i found it almost unbearably sad

the times, they are becoming a'very different...

Bia said...

I just saw my first vintage Denueve movie a few weeks ago - Repulsion. Loved it, so dark and strange without all the unnecessary effect of modern horror movies.


cal -- true enough in terms of perceptions. But it IS also a colorful musical and saying so doesn't miss the point so much as perhaps offer sneaky misdirected recommendations. haha ;)

par -- doris day and her manhunts. but she keeps barking up the wrong trees!

Jesse M said...

I loved Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and never found it purely depressing. It celebrates the dreams of youth, even though it chronicles the characters outgrowing them. It's one of the most delicate mixes of joy and resignation that I've seen put to screen... a very wise film. The use of color is also incredible.

Haven't seen the others mentioned, but I had to give a shout-out to Umbrellas.

cal roth said...

Lots of words missing in my last comment. Umbrellas of Cherbourg overwhelms me. Sorry.

@Jesse M. "Resignation" means sadness, in fact. Try think you are Nino Castelnuovo or Catherine Deneuve in this movie and imagine how does it feel waking up everyday. This movie is the number one of my broken heart parade, along with Brief Encounter and Splendor in the Grass.

It hurts even more because they're young and supposed to be joyful. But they can't be. No more. And you see them together in the end it's like they're already dead. That's the soul of the movie, IMO. The colors are almost an ironic joke. Like life.

You know, now we're talking about a true indelible masterpiece, something that transcends ratings like A+ or 10/10 or that easy quotes we see printed in DVD covers. No words can describe its perfection, its devastating effect, its... its everything. Art was invented for things like this movie.


cal -- well spoken. I could barely move after watching it for the first time and whenever a movie affects me that much I try NOT to see other movies for a few days afterwards. it's a rare thing. and true art.

vg21 said...

Deneuve is divine. Certainement one of the best of all times, Nathaniel:).

Henry said...

I loved the episode. I have no idea why the detractors have gone and disparaged the episode. I read one of the articles from Salon.com and was wondering if the writer was just in a bad mood or something.

I'm gonna randomly yell, "MONSTER!" at the movie theater now.

And The Umbrellas of Cherbourg has just been added and moved to the top of my Netflix queue. 'Cause of this episode...

Henri said...

Oh, and j'adore Deneuve!

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