Monday, February 16, 2009
Day Five: Dementia (1953) - Rank 5/5
For those who are familiar with my movie tastes, they know I'm a huge fan of two genres: film noir and dialog-free films (Koyaanisqatsi, Baraka, Microcosmos, etc.). It shouldn't come as a surprise then that a film noir free of any dialog at all would be right up my alley. The film is quite simply a nightmare. It was allegedly based on a dream that the director, John Parker, was told by his secretary. The imagery in the film is certainly nightmarish, from cackling corpses and faceless spectators, to paper peddling dwarfs and hallucinatory guilt trips. The lighting is as atmospherically gorgeous as one can get. It can almost be considered "uber-noir." And while the idea of a dialog-free crime film might seem more of a novelty than anything else, the storyline is completely engrossing. Alfred Hitchcock once said (and forgive my paraphrasing - I can't locate the exact quote I previously read) that once of the key traits of a really good film is that the audience can follow a film without dialog. He expected that level of expression from his actors when he made the transition from silent films. I believe "Dementia" is a perfect example of that assertion.
Watch the Trailer (it was released as Daughter of Horror in 1957 when the censors finally released their grip on it. Thankfully Kino Video remastered the original version).
However, I regret to say that after a recent "Film Noir-a-thon" (a biannual, all night festival my friends and I hold where each attendee brings a film selection and a bottle of scotch that complements the film - I brought this film with the ever hallucinatory Chevas Regal 18 year) I cannot look at this film the same. The occasional quip was inserted here and there into the film by us, and shortly after I cracked, "Bring me some Pringles!" as the fat, rich man motioned for the waiter, Adam added: "And pick out all the broken one and crumblies. I hate the crumblies." After that, an impromptu and unofficial battle ensued between Adam, Bennett and myself to see who could generate the longest, slovenly monologue about chips in the voice we'd created for the fat man. We were near hysteria by the time the rich man's butler brings him a heaping tray of chicken wings. That moment pushed us over the edge and we came close to death from suffocation, for we were laughing far more heartily than we could inhale. By the time we calmed ourselves and wiped our eyes, the film was over. Not quite, but you get the picture. Why, even the fat, rich man had fun:
"Oh, I love Fritos, but only the regular Fritos. Not the special barbecue Fritos you get at the gas station. The spiral...you know, the spirals. You bite then and they cut the roof of your mouth and then you get Frito dust in the cut and it hurts, but you can't help yourself, so you keep eating more spirals. And you get like three whole spirals in each bag. A third of the bag is air and the rest is filled with Fritos bits and dust..."