Sunday, September 05, 2010

Take Three: Grace Jones

Craig here. It's Take Three time.

Today: Ladies and gentlemen - heeeeere's Grace (Jones)

Singer, icon, original fashionista fantastica, bat-mental celebrity hurricane force. We might not think of Grace Jones as first and foremost an actress, but she energised a handful of films with enough strong supporting style and amazing gracefulness to cement a sporadically unique celluloid reputation second to none. All in her own inestimable way, of course.

She was a woman with a moustache in Siesta, and half-man/half-woman in daft horror Wolf Girl, a spear-carrying warrior alongside Arnie in Conan the Destroyer, a desert dame in cult oddity Straight to Hell, and recently she checked into Abel Ferrerra’s hotel doc. Chelsea on the Rocks. She’s never one to ever be dull and has enlivened and sauced up many a movie role the only way she can: fabulously. So this week I’ve been slaving to Ms Jones’ rhythm and offer up three Grace-filled takes.

Take One: Strangé than fiction

Demolition (wo)man: Ms Jones is heaven scent as Strangé in Boomerang

There were two films in which Ms Jones was introduced via the medium of horses. In the Eddie Murphy corporate comedy Boomerang (1992) Ms Jones was the singularly named A-list fashionista Strangé, an uncorked and uncontrollable corporate cannibal embarking on launching her new fragrance: “I wahnt to call it LovePuss... PigPuke... Steel Vagina!” She entered the film as I like to imagine she did the world: airlifted by helicopter in a crate that bursts open to reveal Ms Jones, looking ridiculously immaculate and snarling, astride a silver chariot pulled by six half-naked/half-bondaged equine-esque men, gabbling something undoubtedly maniacal in French whilst whipping her kinky charges with a riding crop. She looks like a Cleopatra sex doll. Of course.

Ms Jones is living her life on a 7-day weekend in Boomerang

She intermittently pops up to interrupt any sense, and to look ridiculously immaculate and snarl at Murphy and company. In one scene she belligerently rubs her knickers on a perfumer’s face, dressed in what I can only describe as a welder’s mask gone wrong, topped off with the scalp of one of Charlie’s Angels. In another scene she brandishes her lady parts to a dumbstruck Murphy in a full restaurant, dressed in what I can only describe as half a cardigan and an eyebrow malfunction, outs the eatery's gay clientele, and then storms off snarling something undoubtedly saucy in French.

Ms Jones coming and going in her long black limousine in Boomerang

Add to that the advert for her fragrance (“Strangé - it stinks so good!”), where she first appears as a flesh-stripped skull, then dressed in what I can only describe as the tree from The Evil Dead embellished with wishbone earrings, giving birth to her bottled scent* and snarling something undoubtedly fragrant in French... And - voilà! - we have a preternaturally persuasive performance to make watching all 117 minutes of Boomerang worthwhile. (Handy hint: if you only want to see Ms Jones’ parts, and I’d strongly advise it, she crops up at 31, 38, 68 and 77 mins on DVD versions of the film.)

* I actually think she literally does put the nipple to the bottle in this film

Take Two: The lady is a Vamp

Scary but fun: Ms Jones as Katrina in Vamp

The rather camp comedy-horror Vamp (1986) is like After Hours with extra bite. In it Ms Jones plays the singularly named Katrina, star turn and head vampiress at The After Dark Club. Ms Jones doesn’t say a word - she has no need for conversation when snarls will do just fine - and acts through body language alone: her body speaks volumes - especially when it’s covered in Keith Haring doodles and symbols that make her look ridiculously immaculate. She interacts with the club’s doomed punters solely by ripping their necks off and silently thrusts forth a performance thusly befitting of the Queen of Nightclubbing. Grace is on top form.

Red and dead: Ms Jones makes sure everyone gets stage fright in Vamp

Two frat boys stumble upon the club whilst attempting to procure strippers for a college lark: one of them hooks up with Michelle Pfeiffer’s younger sister then takes off into the night, chased by the toothy undead; the other gets his neck ripped off by Ms Jones. It’s as straightforward as that: directed with gusto by Richard Wenk (gusto borrowed by Robert Rodriguez for the very similar From Dusk Till Dawn a decade later), garishly lit like a closed-down neon shop and performed with vampish delight by Ms Jones, who clearly relished the opportunity to strip down on demand and chow down on the cast: she lives la vie en blood red.

Her snarl is definitely not worse than her bite in Vamp

If you’re going to cast someone who knows their way around a sweaty nightclub stage and isn’t afraid to reveal her bloopers once in a while you’re not gonna call up Dame Maggie Smith (although, come on, Dame Mags as a vampire dominatrix would be a laugh). Ms Jones is the perfect option, dressed as she is in what I can only describe as a hanging-basket bra, collapsed red beehive hair-do (a real beehive no doubt) and toenails that needed clipping four centuries ago. It all makes me fondly remember when mainstream vampire fare used to be fun and wasn't afraid to feature spirited turns by notable singer-celebs. Katrina would make Edward Cullen wet his pants with just a cursory snarl and a brief flash of her erogenous zones. Fright Night's getting the remake treatment - how about Vamp next? Again with Ms Jones - ridiculously immaculate and all.

Take Three: Celebrating May Day in style

Firstly let us thank Debbie McWilliams. She’s the genius casting agent who put Ms Jones and James Bond together. And what great casting it was. (‘Has 007 finally met his match?’ ran the strap line.) In A View to a Kill (1984) she’s the singularly-named May Day, the perfect blend of Pussy Galore and Jaws as far as Bond villains go. Ms Jones is essentially the second-tier villain, a snarling and ridiculously immaculate henchwoman capable - due to her superhuman strength! - of hoisting aloft Soviet bodyguards like she’s lifting weights and dispatching American businessmen from airships like she’s flushing turds.

She takes no beef, but dishes it up aplenty. First seen taming a bolting horse with a snarl, May Day sides with Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin - a KGB-trained medical mishap of a man - bent on destroying the world ‘n’ stuff. But as is the way with evil Bond girls May Day eventually swaps sides - the allure of Roger Moore proving it's, um, simply too much to resist?

Ms Jones dressed in what I can... oh it’s a fabulous, red Azzedine Alaïa number.

Secondly let us thank costume designer Emma Porteus for making Ms Jones look so ridiculously immaculate in a range of experimental gowns which I can only describe as indescribably experimental. Ms Jones mostly prowls around being generally evil for the duration: she has to parachute off the Eiffel Tower - dressed in what I can’t for the love of Gaultier describe - after killing a French stereotype with a butterfly and a fishing rod, escape a flooding mine whilst keeping her ridiculously immaculate hairstyle dry, order about a pair of third-tier henchwomen, work a bomb-laden handcar as if her life depended on it (and, ultimately, her life did depend on it) and bed Codger Moore and make it look as if she’s enjoying it - which in anyone’s book is great acting. All whilst looking ridiculously immaculate.

Everybody hold still: Ms Jones don't need a man in A View to a Kill

And finally let’s of course thank the wonderful Ms Jones herself. She perked this 14th Bond outing up no end. Without her it wouldn’t have been half as entertaining. Each time I watch it - and, yes, I’m prepared to admit that, a) I’ve seen it roughly twelve-and-a-half times because, b) it’s my Guilty Pleasure Bond film - I relish seeing Ms Jones kick arse in an array of ridiculously immaculate frocks, snarl like a hellcat in heat and sport at least 27 different hairstyles more than is humanly possible. Perhaps we’ll see Lady Gaga play a Bond villain next?


Glenn said...

Oh man, Grace Jones. The one and only.

She's always fascinating. And, on the theme of James Bond, her theme song to The Avengers is the best Bond theme song that never was.

Scott Willison said...

Man, I love Storm from The Avengers. It's astonishing. Almost as astonishing as Ms Jones herself.


why do i not remember this song?

I remember virtually nothing about The Avengers though except for Uma Thurman's skin tight outfit and Ralph Fiennes Ass.

I miss Grace Jones. at least we had that momentary return with "Corporate Cannibal"

NicksFlickPicks said...

I loved this. Loved it.

/3rtfu11 said...

Boomerang is the closest thing to Oscar worthy Miss Jones has given us.

The early 90s the Academy loved funny women: Whoopi, Mercedes, Marisa, Dianne, and Mira.

bakerist said...

Oh joy of joys, Grace Jones! She's been one of my idols since I was a kid!

Gripendor said...

Roger Moore, Christopher Walken with the Divine Diva herself and a Duran Duran soundtrack.... perfect!