Poll

What's your favorite film by Samuel Fuller?

I Shot Jesse James
0 (0%)
The Baron of Arizona
0 (0%)
The Steel Helmet
2 (7.1%)
Fixed Bayonets!
0 (0%)
Park Row
0 (0%)
Pickup on South Street
9 (32.1%)
Hell and High Water
0 (0%)
House of Bamboo
0 (0%)
Run of the Arrow
1 (3.6%)
Forty Guns
2 (7.1%)
Verboten!
0 (0%)
The Crimson Kimono
1 (3.6%)
Underworld U.S.A.
0 (0%)
Merrill's Marauders
0 (0%)
Shock Corridor
1 (3.6%)
The Naked Kiss
0 (0%)
The Big Red One
2 (7.1%)
White Dog
1 (3.6%)
Street of No Return
1 (3.6%)
haven't seen any
7 (25%)
don't like any
1 (3.6%)
other
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 27

Author Topic: Fuller, Samuel  (Read 3342 times)

Teproc

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Re: Fuller, Samuel
« Reply #30 on: May 28, 2016, 03:19:22 AM »
The Big Red One isn't nearly as exaggerated, which isn't to say Fuller has lobotomized his style. I love the image of Lee Marvin disguised as an Arab, chomping on his cigar through a layer of wardrobe. Marvin tells his men that "killing is not murder" and in the very next scene we hear a German leader tell his soldiers the same thing. That's Fuller all over. See also the French leader who insists his men should fire on the arriving Americans, including the image of the leader dead, but still firing at Marvin and his men. It's blackly absurdly funny, but just inside believability.

What you don't mention here is that the French leader is then killed, and all the soldiers immediately decide to lay down their arms and join the Americans because they didn't want to shoot at them in the first place. My problem with the Big Red One (well, one of them) is that Fuller seems to be completely torn between a desire to denounce/satirize war (the asylum scene, the attitude towards death and killing) and celebrate it : the ending of course, but really the whole film felt schizophrenic to me in that respect, and the concentration camp scene is the worst of it. You see it as a way to humanize Lee Marvin's character : I'd go further and say it seeks to make him into a hero.

Now ambiguity isn't a bad thing, but it didn't feel like ambiguity to me as much as Fuller theoretically wanting to make a film satirizing war and ending up doing a piece of propaganda. It's not so much "war is insane", as "war is really tough but ultimately worth it and soldiers are clearly heroes to be celebrated". To be clear : I don't think it's an invalid point of view to have, but the film is too schizophrenic about it to even come close to making it work.

What do you think about the constant sunny weather throughout the film ? It makes it look like they're on vacation almost, contributes to it feeling like an asepticized version of war. Basically I founds the film to be completey thematically dissonant, and the concentration camp scene was the confirmation of that : you're saying it humanizes Lee Marvin's character, but he is always portrayed positively throughout ! Yeah he's rough, but he's the leader and he cares about his core group of guys : I don't think there's any attempt to make us feel ambiguous towards him : he's the typical sergeant character in those war films.

It feels as if we saw different films, which... I'd rather have seen your version.  :-\
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verbALs

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Re: Fuller, Samuel
« Reply #31 on: May 28, 2016, 08:58:35 AM »
Re Fuller pushing buttons.

Fuller has a personal hinterland that suggests to me a better understanding of the human condition than a lot of directors. That background in newspapers is something to consider. Newspapers sell more copy based in their ability to manipulate factual events into headlines and pieces that speak to people's interests. Their primal interests. So correctly calling this button pushing.

Now this refers to a lot of writing done here. I feel like Ive spent enough time out in the world to know how people will react to words written in a certain way. Is that good writing? Writing to get an intended reaction? Clearly that's another way of saying button pushing isn't it? Yet one thing I e questioned PMing Sandy is that if I want to write something but I have a fairly good idea what sort of reaction it will engender; then should I write it?  I feel it's a valid thing to say but I can tell from experience that someone won't like it. Now....is that button pushing? I wouldn't blame the reader for their reaction but I don't feel in turn to blame for that response. Certainly not if its a subject I want to explore. I recognise this in Fuller. It's clear that he went for some big buttons but in the case of White Dog that in itself does not, to my mind, make it inflammatory. The film is examined for racism because it is hitting those targets so hard. I personally find it admirable and bold. If it comes across as obvious or unsubtle instead then I think that's a personal choice. I'm happy to find subtlety from other sources but I don't need a conformity. Fullers tone is so unique. I value it for that reason but if he was just shouting loudly (something I find isn't a problem in writing ) it would be less interesting than it is. I find it ludicrous that White Dog say is accused of racism as if making a film about racism and making it so explicit means it isn't intelligent and searching. As if a simple pure aim in a subject and as if knowing exactly what response it will provoke somehow negates its validity.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2016, 09:04:44 AM by verbALs »
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Re: Fuller, Samuel
« Reply #32 on: May 28, 2016, 12:41:38 PM »
I thought of the image in Saving Private Ryan where Sizemore puts sand in a tin from Omaha Beach in his bag with tins labelled North Africa and Sicily. It's a good cinematic shorthand for "veteran" soldier.
This reminded me. My original plan was to simply post
Saving Private Ryan < The Big Red One
but then I found Teproc's review, which provoked a much deeper exploration. Certainly beats me just flapping my brain cells for 2-3 paragraphs.

In Big Red, there's a new member of the company who tries to win their favor by bringing them water to wash off the rock dust. The eager beaver routine is something I've seen before, but I loved the way the rest of the company silently distanced themselves from the kid, especially when he seemed confused as to why he might be killed so long as he he watched out and did what he was told. As an audience member, I can understand where the kid is coming from, but also why this is a stupid way of thinking. By now we were viewing things like the veteran soldiers.


I'd add that there were Highland Regiments who had disrupted the German advance to allow the Dunkirk evacuation, who, by Normandy, had basically fought themselves to a standstill and became ineffective.
That's really interesting. Would love to see someone dramatize that.


Your words on button pushing highlight why I see Fuller's value but often don't like it. Much like DePalma's visuals it's certainly effective, but heightened to a degree that it's hard to not go "come on, get off your throne." If you can resist that urge - something I can't do with Fuller but easily do with DePalma - you may just want to applaud such bold tactics. 
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1SO

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Re: Fuller, Samuel
« Reply #33 on: May 28, 2016, 01:08:04 PM »
What you don't mention here is that the French leader is then killed, and all the soldiers immediately decide to lay down their arms and join the Americans because they didn't want to shoot at them in the first place.
And they were not shooting until the stupid boss came out and opened fire.

My problem with the Big Red One (well, one of them) is that Fuller seems to be completely torn between a desire to denounce/satirize war (the asylum scene, the attitude towards death and killing) and celebrate it : the ending of course, but really the whole film felt schizophrenic to me in that respect, and the concentration camp scene is the worst of it. You see it as a way to humanize Lee Marvin's character : I'd go further and say it seeks to make him into a hero.
I never saw Marvin as heroic. His men looked up to him because they don't know what happened in World War I. They say they don't understand why he signed up for another war. We know that he is a lost soul looking for redemption. He creates a difference between killing and murder, and in the first scene he commits murder. He signs up for WWII looking to right that wrong and in the end he's given the opportunity. I don't see it as making him a hero, but his soul is saved and he is no longer one of the insane war soldiers.

Now ambiguity isn't a bad thing, but it didn't feel like ambiguity to me as much as Fuller theoretically wanting to make a film satirizing war and ending up doing a piece of propaganda.
I can agree with this because starting with Platoon we saw war films that really put the screws to the whole mentality of war. I just don't see Fuller celebrating these guys. It's not a full deconstruction, but he pokes holes in their heroics all along teh way, from downplaying medals they won to making fun of the book writer, who seems to only be alive so he can sell a novel.

What do you think about the constant sunny weather throughout the film ? It makes it look like they're on vacation almost, contributes to it feeling like an asepticized version of war.
I can't fault this, but I didn't hate it. It's a visually flat look, one that I've seen in films set in Italy. Maybe that's where they filmed all of this.

It feels as if we saw different films, which... I'd rather have seen your version.  :-\
Certainly. If there was a Pvt. Ryan vs. Big Red deathmatch I believe BR1 would get creamed, even though I think people would like it. I just happen to like it to the degree of putting it above Ryan on my Essentials list.
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1SO

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Re: Fuller, Samuel
« Reply #34 on: June 15, 2016, 11:07:02 PM »

Pickup on South Street (1953)
"I didn't pinpoint ya', honest. I gave Tiger the name of eight canons,
but that creep that was with 'em, he fingered your picture like a shot."


Before bringing the conversation around to Fuller, I want to get right to the heart of the film. What makes this a great movie is the Oscar Nominated supporting performance by Thelma Ritter (Rear Window, All About Eve). This would still be a good film without Ritter, but she fills every moment on screen with such a range of emotions and depth of character, I miss her when she's not on screen. This is a very tightly-plotted film, running only 80 minutes, but Fuller wisely indulges Ritter with extra pauses and moments within a scene, and she never makes it feel like time wasted. In her climactic scene, she underplays while hitting every emotion in the rainbow. The character is not this important on the page, but Ritter makes her the heart and soul in a heartless Noir world.

I've seen 11 by Fuller, recommend 5 and my two favorites - The Big Red One and Pickup on South Street - demonstrate a lighter hand compared to typical Fuller fare.

I was somewhat wrong about this. The dialogue here is more theatrical than typical Noir and the direction lighter only when compared to other work by Fuller. ("I'll drive you back in a hearse if you don't get the kink out of your mouth!") It's the one time his stylized, tough attitude doesn't veer into camp or melodrama, though I don't buy the romantic angle for a second. I like the plot being about Communism instead of crime, an angle that produces more bad Noir than good, and Richard Widmark gets to be both a mean S.O.B. and the hero.
RATING: * * * 1/2
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verbALs

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Re: Fuller, Samuel
« Reply #35 on: June 16, 2016, 12:24:17 AM »
I don't recognise his tough approach veering into "camp or melodrama" but maybe you have examples; but that sounds like a contradiction- tough to camp. Not much camp outside of The Naked Kiss or 40 Guns are these the one you are thinking of. Melodrama applied to lots of directors (Almodovar, Sirk?) isn't really a perjorative at all is it?

Fuller structures the pickpocket scene on the train, the first scene, as a seduction. It's masterful in that the pair may not even be looking at each other given the circumstances. The tough love of their relationship makes it special in noir. Peters goes through hell for Widmark and it takes him a long time to recognise how resilient and how much like him she is.

Ritter is stellar but the film has much more to offer.
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Re: Fuller, Samuel
« Reply #36 on: June 16, 2016, 12:45:35 AM »
I don't recognise his tough approach veering into "camp or melodrama" but maybe you have examples; but that sounds like a contradiction- tough to camp.
It's hard to define examples of camp because what might seems extreme to one person might not for another. It's an overly-theatrical approach used instead of a more literal, realistic one. For example, the nymphomaniac scene in Shock Corridor. Not the least bit realistic. It's a different effect Fuller is going for, much like the black klansman. I think it ends up absurd and slightly funny in a way that is not intentional. That Fuller frames a scene there so willingly is why I label it camp. Jessie James sitting in a tub asking Robert Ford to scrub his back in I Shot Jesse James, including a shot of Jesse's exposed back, completely vulnerable to the man who we know shoots him in the back... camp.

You don't have to try too hard to turn your tough dialogue and moments to camp. Just go one step too far. The woman in the opening of The Naked Kiss giving a beating with such vigor her wig falls off. A tough scene suddenly turns camp. In No Name on the Bullet (not a Fuller film), there's one bad line. Audie Murphy tells the town doctor what's going to happen, ending it with "That's my prescription. Go and fill it." The first sentence is tough enough, adding the second one makes it campy.


Fuller structures the pickpocket scene on the train, the first scene, as a seduction. It's masterful in that the pair may not even be looking at each other given the circumstances. The tough love of their relationship makes it special in noir. Peters goes through hell for Widmark and it takes him a long time to recognise how resilient and how much like him she is.

Ritter is stellar but the film has much more to offer.
Agree. Without Ritter, this is still top-shelf Fuller and one of the best Noir. She isn't the sole reason to watch the film, but she's the guarantee that this is one worth watching.
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verbALs

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Re: Fuller, Samuel
« Reply #37 on: June 16, 2016, 12:54:38 AM »
I think we were differentiating Fuller and de Palma earlier along these lines. It's a matter of personal taste for a stylisation which isn't attempting to be tasteful. Is that fair do you think? Lurid might be the word I would use that has a positive slant to it, instead of camp, but I don't want a vocabulary stand off. Going from tough to camp seemed unnatural but you described the transition well. Going one step too far in dialogue can strain the credibility of a scene. I like that Jesse James scene a lot. If one has a bath in the middle of a room one might ask for passerby's to scrub those hard to reach areas! ;D
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1SO

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Re: Fuller, Samuel
« Reply #38 on: June 16, 2016, 01:25:57 AM »
Well said. I was also thinking of DePalma, where I end up fighting in favor of the lurid touches. Body Double Spoilers Killing a girl with a drill held between your legs is also camp, but I love DePalma's audacity. Then, in case he hadn't already gone too far, there's the shot of the screw going through the ceiling with the blood corkscrewing off the bit. Had the exact same images been delivered by Sam Fuller, I might've objected. Such is the nature of supporting your heroes when they swing for the fences.
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verbALs

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Re: Fuller, Samuel
« Reply #39 on: June 16, 2016, 02:02:53 AM »
Perhaps when it comes to lurid directors there can only be one. Which then begs the question. Who the modern holder of this crown is. Winding Refn comes to mind. He seems to take that step extra which I absolutely applauded in Drive but positively detested in Only God Forgives. He could go either way as he progresses but after OGF I'm not sure I have much patience reserved for him. As far as Fuller goes I don't feel like I'm letting him off for his flights of fantasy. They add to his appeal. So I guess the same would apply to de Palma for you. Neither of us are forgiving the luridness. More like we revelling in it. Everyone should have a director like that.  It's the fearlessness that makes them special.
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