Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Olde Review: The Running, Jumping, and Standing Still Film

This was part of a series of reviews of the ASUW Film series back in the '70's. Except for some punctuation, I haven't changed anything from the way it was presented, giving the snarky, clueless kid I was back in the '70's a break (But not as much as I'd like to!). Any stray thoughts and updates I've included with the inevitable asterisked post-scripts.

This Friday's ASUW films in 130 Kane are a comedy triple bill of "The Running, Jumping, Standing Still Film" by Richard Lester, "Love and Death" by Woody Allen, and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" by the Usual Gang of Idiots.*

"The Running Jumping and Standing Still Film" (Richard Lester, 1960) "The Running, Jumping, and Standing Still Film" is a 1959 1960 short film directed by Richard Lester--his first film, in fact**. It is very much in the Monty Python tradition--a little rougher, perhaps, as far as the flow of ideas, but just as full of zaniness. Lester has gone on to make such films as "A Hard Day's Night ," "The Knack ...and How to Get It ," "Help! ," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Petulia ," "The Three/The Four Musketeers
," "Royal Flash," "Robin and Marian," "The Ritz" (currently playing at a downtown theater), and "Juggernaut," which was telecast Wednesday night. Luckily, Lester didn't confine himself to Goon Show madness, but learned how to take the inanities and one-liners and incorporate them into his films as throw-aways that enrich the film, and reflect the view that, even in the most dramatic of circumstances, life is basically a comedy and an ironic comedy at that.

It's always interesting to follow the career of a director, and it is particularly so with Lester. His humor. (at first), was the entire film, then (it merely) dominated his work, then (the humor)sank into his films, becoming a part of the landscape.

The cast consists of Lester's old cronies from
The Goon Show -- such luminaries as Peter Sellers (playing a snooty hunter), Spike Milligan (as a would-be hang-glider), I think Leo McKern (who played the high priest Clang in "Help!"***) quite appropriately ends the film. Lester, himself, appears, logically, as a beginning artist. I'm very glad to say that he has improved considerably.

I'm a big fan of Lester's as one can tell by the laundry list of films in the review. He went on to make less-stellar films of "Supermen II and III," Cuba," "Butch and Sundance: The Early Days," "The Return of the Musketeers," and "Finders Keepers." His last film was the 1991 Paul McCartney concert film entitled "Get Back."

Now here (fanfare!) is a LNTAM "first:" This is the first time that I can show the entire film that the review is talking about, courtesy of those crazy kids at YouTube.
Part 1

Part 2

Tomorrow: The "Woodman" sees more clouds of grey/than any Russian play/could guarantee in "Love and Death."

The Day after the Day that is Tomorrow that is not Today, Q.E.D.: The...LARCH!

* I'm not being mean here (well, meaner than normal), I am just appropriating a line from the credits of the typical issue of MAD Magazine.

** It actually was a co-directing effort between Lester and Peter Sellers.

***McKern also played, staggeringly, Rumpole of the Bailey for British television, and many roles comedic and dramatic. Lest we forget.


Walaka said...

Um, that Lester thing is pretty much unwatchable. Maybe it's because I never went to film school..

Yojimbo_5 said...

I'm glad you qualified it because, as I've watched it, it is "watchable." Unless "YouTube" is screwing up (entirely possible).

The Goons are an acquired taste, like Monty Python, like anything. You're either "there" or you're not. Personally, I've never thought "Dumb and Dumber" was funny, not even in the rosey glow of memory.

But "unwatchable?" That's a bit like my Mother-in-Law's dry comment after watching an episode of "Benny Hill:" "Well....that's a little far-fetched."

Jon said...

The Goons are indeed an acquired taste - having grown up on the radio shows, I think one thing that is missing here is the verbal dexterity they had. Not just the voices and the accents but the puns and the absurdist leaps they made. They were in many ways the precursors of Python at a time when it was harder to be edgy. This was 50's/60's Britain - uptight in a very different way to the US. To me they are surrealists rather than satirists.

Now, Benny Hill - that's unwatchable.

walaka said...

You guys are both missing my point (not that I actually made it or anything).

It's not the sensibility or the aesthetic that I don't like. I just think the film was crudely, amateurishly, and inexpertly made.

Yojimbo_5 said...

Yes. Yes, it was.

So what?

So are a lot of the early silent films, but that doesn't make them "unwatchable."

So are the early movies of Steven Spielberg. He used 8mm. Are we going to judge them for that?

What about all those films made with those cheap little camera you were fascinated with so long ago?

An unsteady camera-hand, a blurry image, an absurd scenario can all make contributions to art.

Why don't you just say what you mean: "I don't like it."

Can't argue with that.

walaka said...

I'm done.

Yojimbo_5 said...

I'm not.

Even though I prepped them an amazingly prescient two weeks ago, you'll find this precise argument continuing in the "Love and Death" reviews and especially in the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" review.

Because, as Steve Martin said, comedy is not pretty.