men_in_full: (Nine of Cups)

Thanks go to [ profile] obedientlyyours, which reminded me of Orson Welles' birthday today (his 95th, although he unfortunately passed in 1985.) Above, he plays seedy and corrupt detective Hank Quinlan in his film, Touch of Evil.

Much Orson picspam, all SFW )

ETA: Earlier, Orson Welles' cameo appearance in Theodore Roszak's novel Flicker.

men_in_full: (opera goers)
One of the most compelling science fiction characters is found in Frank Herbert's 1962 novel Dune. The desert planet Dune has the singular feature of being the only world in the known galaxy where one can find the valuable commodity "spice," which permits interstellar travel at greater-than-light speeds. An entire galactic empire has grown up around the spice trade, with planets ruled by dynasties called "houses." Without spice, the entire pyramid of power would collapse. There's a long involved messiah plot, but for our purposes all you need to know is that the House of Atreides ("good guys") and House Harkonnen ("bad guys") are mortal rivals.

The bull-goose bad guy of House Harkonnen is the Baron, Vladimir Harkonnen. In the original novel he's a quintessential '60s-vintage villain: no tormented childhood like Tom Riddle in the Harry Potter series; no nuanced or redeeming qualities whatever. Herbert also made him both homosexual (or perhaps bisexual, depending on how you interpret the story) and hugely fat. Both qualities were, I believe, picked by the original author to make him more of a "monster."

As it often happens, subsequent versions often re-imagine, re-vamp, and re-vision a sharply-drawn character. Keven MacMillan in David Lynch's 1984 version played the Baron as a pustulent raving lunatic.

The Baron Harkonnen, with a few NSFW )

men_in_full: (daniel lambert)
[ profile] thornyc recently went to the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, and has put up a review of a notable film called A Matter of Size. Four disgruntled guys tired of jabs about their weight form an amateur sumo club and start training. The plot sounds a little bit like that of Secret Society from 2000 (thanks, [ profile] jennie_jay!), which covered similar ground with women workers in a UK factory who form a sumo club.

Here's hoping A Matter of Size gets wide distribution (or any distribution at all, I guess, as according to [ profile] thornyc, it's making the festival rounds now.)

* * * * * * *

[ profile] my_daroga has some remarks about Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus; clicky for a nice picture of Charles Laughton and Peter Ustinov. She likes the Roman "bad guys" better than the "good" ones, and I do too. That's why I think Laughton would have made a great Phantom of the Opera (not necessarily "better than" Lon Chaney, but definitely with his own powerful interpretation.)

* * * * * * *

While on the subject of Charles Laughton, I watched The Private Life of Henry VIII last night. I enjoyed it, but didn't enjoy the snap-crackle-pop un-remastered version on the library's VHS tape. The youtube installments are much better in quality, but unfortunately are not embeddable (at least by me.)

Here's Laughton's Henry trying to impress new wife Catherine Howard by taking on the best wrestler in England (starts at 5:35.) I like the shadow effect; it makes Laughton's Henry look "larger than life," and also enjoy the discrepancy in size between Henry and the other wrestler. Laughton had this big, bull-like *energy* about him, that's for sure.

Here, Henry's Privy Council informs him that Catherine Howard has betrayed him with court retainer Thomas Culpeper. He just crumbles as he hears the news. You can watch the life go right out of him.

* * * * * * *

Finally, a friend who reads here regularly sent this link to a New York Times article about the new aesthetic in male beauty for models. These men are expected to be over six feet and about 145-150 lbs. They look seriously emaciated, but no one seems to be complaining as they have about undernourished female models.

Normally I don't post "negative" stuff, and especially I *don't* point this out to prompt any "Oh, they're so *unattractive* remarks. I like fat men but realize that every body type invokes love in somebody, and not everyone has to share my predilection. But this article has something in it so foolish that I feel duty-bound to mention it. These very thin men were being told by modeling agencies/designers to *lose muscle.* There was no fat on them to lose - but even a little ripple of muscle was considered unattractive. Now if a man is naturally thin and not too muscular, then that's his body type and it's all good. But to tell a very thin man to *lose muscle* to get even thinner?

On a highly lean man, any loss of muscle is probably going to come out of the biggest muscles in the body (the thighs and butt), and from then on, the heart. The health implications aren't even mentioned in the article. And these young men (and they have to be young, pretty much) are told they're "too big" to model.

That's one reason I would like to pass around a big plate of virtual brownies to the bear world (help yourself at right), to those within it who love and desire older men. A fair number of men naturally get quite large as they age, especially around the chest and shoulders, and their strength increases accordingly. It's a beautiful thing, especially when a man has so much *longer* over the course of his life to shine, and doesn't have to alter or starve himself to "stay attractive."

men_in_full: (beardsley bacchus)
Charles Laughton (1899-1962) said, "I have a face like the behind of an elephant." Never considered conventionally attractive, he nonetheless went on to create unforgettable characters who became forged inextricably with his image: Nero, Captain Bligh, Friar Tuck, Henry VIII. Denied conventional "romantic leads," his scope ranged far wider, with these intense men of wild excesses of temperament and sometimes dubious sanity.

[ profile] my_daroga captured this image of Laughton as Gracchus in Spartacus and was kind enough to let me use it here.

She says this about him:
... I thought of you last night when I was watching Spartacus. I need to write a review, but basically while watching I realized that I didn't care at all about the slaves because I couldn't get interested in Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis's characters, because the Roman "bad guys" were such great and interesting actors ...

There are several scenes with Peter Ustinov and Charles Laughton together, being totally adorable and a bit hedonistic. And then there was a shot in a bathhouse that was Laughton curled up on a slab in a towel, which struck me and Mr. D. as being totally unusual and bizarre. Laughton was never a very attractive man, and at this age was even heavier, but here's this amazing glorious shot of his whole body in repose that seemed somehow loving. To me--I don't know what we were supposed to get from the shot at all.

In this long-ago article from 1994, Quentin Curtis has this to say about Laughton's Gracchus:

'I think I did not admire Charles as much as many did,' wrote Laurence Olivier to Laughton's widow. 'There was a possible envy about me playing roles he was denied on account of physical appearance, and I felt in his appearance lay the root of what people considered his genius.' So it is that Spartacus (1960) is a battle between Laughton and Olivier (both Roman senators), fat and thin actor, emotionalist and technician, as between Rome and Kirk Douglas. The best scenes are the confabs between Laughton and Peter Ustinov (conflabs?), mainly penned by Ustinov: 'You and I have a tendency towards corpulence,' confides Laughton. 'Corpulence makes a man reasonable, pleasant and phlegmatic. Have you noticed the nastiest of tyrants are invariably thin?'

Laughton shows a little skin in the 1954 domestic comedy Hobson's Choice (directed by David Lean.)

Curtis remarks in the same article that Laughton transcended the usual "fat guy" role:

So who is the exception to the rule of thwarted fat men? If anyone, maybe Charles Laughton, who in a few performances out-acted anybody in film, fat or thin. Yes, he over-acted at times, but wasn't that a way of asserting himself over the wretchedness of the material? In Hobson's Choice (1954), clutching his braces and puffing his great stomach, he has an odd mixture of gaiety and tottering indignity, a surly, decayed grandeur, which steals the show from the milksops we're supposed to be admiring. How satisfying to see a great fat actor outsmart a director called Lean.

Laughton was also apparently a closeted, married gay man. His wife Elsa Lanchester (of Bride of Frankenstein fame) and he had a companionate and open relationship, and played alongside each other in several films, remaining together until Laughton's relatively early death at age 63. It is understandable that he had to hide his true nature, given Laughton's Catholic upbringing, and the intense homophobic attitudes of the time.

Laughton’s relationship with his sexuality was altogether more difficult. Although he had several lovers, there was never a significant male partner. In a way, Laughton still loathed his sexuality and felt his lovers were a necessary evil. Even at the height of his fame, Laughton’s sexuality remained a tight secret. Only once was an expose narrowly avoided but on the whole, Laughton and Lanchester managed to keep his secret safe. (link)

I wonder, though, if he was driven further into the closet, so to speak, as a result of being seen as "fat and ugly" - and seeing himself that way as well.

in 1939, he was the obvious choice to play the lead role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Laughton was hesitant to play the role. Having long detested his own looks, the character of Quasimodo was perhaps a little close to home. Nevertheless, he decided to take the role and despite not winning him the expected second Oscar, The Hunchback of Notre Dame became Laughton’s best-known film role. (link)

His face was more Socrates than Apollo," the classic archetype of stereotyped male beauty, and his body more Silenus than Michaelangelo's "David." To my knowledge, there was no "bear" or "chub" subculture in which he could take refuge, where he could be desired for his body and face as they were.

ETA: For all things Laughton, check out self-professed Laughtonienne Gloria's blog, and her juicily-detailed comment below.

ETA-squared: [ profile] my_daroga's review of Spartacus is here, with a nice screencap of Laughton.

men_in_full: (loo silenus)

[ profile] jennie_jay and I both have a "thing" for French actor Gerard Depardieu. He has a winning smile, and while he's taken some snarky critical hits for having filled out in his middle age, I think it suits him.

She showed me this clip where he plays the coal miner Maheu in the movie Germinal, based on an 1885 novel by Emile Zola. (The title comes from the name of the French Revolution's new names for the months; "Germinal" encompasses roughly late March through April, and thus the title points to new life, hope, growth.)

Here Maheu is getting a bath, and then gets not-so-worksafe-ly frisky.

men_in_full: (opera goers)
Before there was Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code, there was Theordore Roszak's 1991 novel Flicker. In both stories a secret cabal of Gnostics hide out from "orthodox" Christianity, leaving subtle clues everywhere, and the hero has to find them for "the big reveal." Only difference is, in Flicker the Gnostic Cathars are far from benign. The survivors of the Cathar persecutions are still alive and well - and making movies. Film scholar Jonathan Gates begins a decades-long affair with avant-garde critic Clare Swann, and there's more than steamy sex between them. There's also Gates's fascination with deceased German expressionist filmmaker Max Castle - and the strange subliminal messages Gates finds embedded in Castle's films, hidden in "the flicker," the 1/24th of a second frame frequency required by the human eye/nervous system to give film the illusion of smooth, continuous movement.

More on Orson Welles in Flicker )

If I recall aright, this scene in Flicker takes place in the early 1970s, right around the time Welles actually did make F for Fake - and there is a delightful dinner party scene in that movie where Welles does take the center stage in just the way described here.

Later, at the end of the evening, Gates finally gets to confront Clare about Orson:

... As we waited for the pokey elevator to make its way back to her floor, I asked, "Should I congratulate you?" She gave me a puzzled look. I nodded back to her apartment. "Something permanent?"

She let a few beats go by, then answered. "Hardly. And that's for the best. It's an adventure to have him here, but otherwise ... well, you remember your little fling with Nylana the Jungle Girl. Things don't always translate off the silver screen as you might like, do they?"

I agreed she was right about that. She allowed another weightier, heavier pause to set in. Then: "I don't have to tell you this, but whatever the disenchantments, he's the first man I've liked having around the house since I left LA ..."

(PS: [ profile] my_daroga, I think you would really enjoy this novel; it's packed with real and imagined film history, as well as being an engaging and well-plotted story.)

X-posted to [ profile] obedientlyyours
men_in_full: (Default)
[ profile] taming_blue posted a video today which I can't get out of my head. It's a clip from a 1988 Guy Maddin film, Tales from the Gimli Hospital, dressed up as a music video to The Field's song, "Over the Ice." It has some disturbing NSFW content but is haunting as well. In this scene, Michael Gottli's character Gunnar appears to share a revelation with one of the surrealistic Gimli Hospital's nurses, and the moment where the nurse puts her hand on Gunnar's belly sends shivers up my spine. The idea of suffering angels with clipped wings was also used in Michael Polish's 2003 fantasy, Northfork.

men_in_full: (Default)

Lilo's Crazy Wall, from the Disney cartoon Lilo & Stitch.

When we first meet Lilo in the film, she's wandering around the beach, taking pictures of every fat person she can find. Later we find out that she puts all her pictures up on a wall in her room (a veritable "crazy wall" of snapshots.)

Because she's a little girl, she can "get away with" coming right up to people and taking their picture - although some of the "crazy wall" shots have a more surreptitious feel to them.

Sometimes I take "secret" shots of fat men, and I always feel slightly guilty about it. On one hand, if someone is out in public, the thinking goes that their "image," so to speak - their publicly seen persona - is "fair game." OTOH, a lot of fat people don't want their pictures taken, because they feel they are "unattractive," or maybe just don't want their image recorded, period.

OTOH again (I've run out of hands!) if I do snap a shot of someone without asking them, I try to make the shot as respectful as possible, and to show the person in a good light. In general I do try to ask, if it's an appropriate situation (street fair, etc.) but sometimes I *will* take surreptitious shots.

men_in_full: (daniel lambert)
My friend [ profile] my_daroga has started a community called [ profile] obedientlyyours, devoted to actor and director Orson Welles, who was definitely a "man in full" in his own right. Over there, [ profile] chavvah linked to this 1960s-era interview.

As I remarked over there,
Welles here looks to me, at least, as a man in his prime in his fifties. His voice has a lovely gravitas; he has a lot of assurance even in the face of many disappointments, but laced with a bit of bitterness as well. And [ profile] my_daroga is chuckling here; I can hear her) I find him overwhelmingly attractive at this stage of life, esp. in this interview - not just his solid middle-aged face and shoulders, but in that deep, resonant voice.

(For more Orson Welles love, visit Wellesnet: The Orson Welles Web Resource.)
men_in_full: (daniel lambert)
It is very difficult to find erotic, emotionally-sensitive images of women with fat men as partners, whether in art or media productions. There are beautiful and numerous collections of gay chub and bear images, some of which I've had the privilege to post. Gay men aren't shy about photographing the bears and chubs whom they desire, but straight women (from what I've seen, and I would love to be proven wrong) seem to prefer to photograph themselves or other fat women.

The sex scene between Lydia and Bob in Disfigured deserves a post all of its own, and when more of you all out there have had a chance to see Disfigured, I want to write about that particular sex scene. It's one of the very few erotic, straight fat man scenes in modern cinema, to my knowledge, and I have some things to say about it. Discussing a movie on a blog is always a bit more difficult, though, if the movie doesn't have a wide release. (It was a lot easier to write about WALL-E, since it opened in theaters all over, and everyone could see it pretty much at once.) As for Disfigured, I want to wait till it makes its way through your Netflix queues so we can hopefully have some discussion.

More on straight fat couple imagery, some NSFW )

men_in_full: (opera goers)
“If you want to change your body, does it mean that you hate yourself? If you want to change the world, does it mean that you hate the world?” That's the fundamental question posed in Glenn Gers' film, Disfigured, in which women question what they've been taught about their bodies, and how they live in them in a world that expects and rewards thinness.

The film opens in “documentary style” with a fat acceptance group, where the large-bodied Lydia (Deidra Edwards) struggles for recognition. Every group is in some small way a microcosm of society, of what the participants bring to it, and this mostly-female group is no different. And this one is based on conformity – only in this case, the body to which one conforms is a fat one. When recovering anorexic Darcy (Staci Lawrence) asks to join because she thinks she's “fat” and wants to learn to “accept” that, the atmosphere at once takes on the quality of middle school. It's as if the unpopular kid had the gall to walk up to the popular kids' lunch table, and the emotional temperature in the room drops precipitously. To this group, at least, fat isn't “just a construct.” They know what fat is, and Darcy isn't it.

Both Darcy and Lydia are rejected in their own way, and thus their friendship grows. It's rare in film to see women intensely interact; form friendships; suffer; work things out. The relationship between the two women emotionally resonates because the issues with which they struggle are fundamental to not only their identities, but to their very lives.

Lots more ...  )

(Many thanks go to Glenn Gers for kindly providing a copy of Disfigured for this commentary.)

ETA: Disfigured is not, to my knowledge, going to have a wide theatrical release. It is available on DVD for rent in the USA here and at other rental outlets; for USA purchase here, and for UK purchase here (PAL format.)
men_in_full: (daniel lambert)
I'm pretty flattered - The Rotund invited me to write a guest column on "The Invisible Fat Man," and so I did. (Thanks so much for the opportunity!) In it I made some mention of Glenn Gers' film Disfigured, which just had its New York opening. From what I have seen of stills and the trailer, Ryan Benson's character Bob is just too cute for words; the kind of sweet, rounded man with a gentle face and chest that just demand cuddling.

I was talking about why fat men don't get to take their shirts off very often in movies, and speculated that some of it was that creators don't want to subject a sympathetic or favorable character to mockery or cruel laughter (as is so often the case when a fat man is shown unclothed in the mainstream.) In Disfigured, fat heroine Lydia (Deidra Edwards) forms a friendship with recovering anorexic Darcy (Staci Lawrence.) After starting a relationship with the well-padded Bob (Ryan Benson), Lydia makes the unusual request of Darcy for “anorexia lessons.” I wrote:
What I found interesting re: fat male invisibility is that in the trailer for Disfigured, the fat heroine and her fat boyfriend are shown in an erotic moment, but she is shirtless and he is not. Perhaps he disrobes later in the film. But trailers are marketing tools, and scenes for them are picked accordingly. It may be that we’re seeing a “LOST effect” here. To wit, if the boyfriend is intended to be shown as cute and sympathetic, it’s not possible to show him shirtless in the film marketing. In other words, if the fat male lead is seen by the audience as “gross” or funny, the audience will have already turned away from whatever (hopefully) open-minded or new things which the film possibly has to say about fatness. So while it remains to be seen how Disfigured handles its fat male romantic interest, at least in the trailer the fat man’s body invisibility is maintained.

Well, knock me over with a feather, but the director/writer left a comment in the combox. Ulp! Now I have to gather my wits to answer. ; ) Seriously, this to me is the best part of writing this blog - communicating with those actually creating the art which interests me.

Gers sounds pretty sensitive to what it means for fat men to be sexually "revealed" in the mainstream media. Rachel at The F-Word interviewed Gers here, where she put to him ten questions about his film. This one is worth repeating:
Sexual scenes involving one or more fat partners are unheard of in Hollywood. And yet Disfigured features a beautifully-crafted and graphic sexual scene shot between Lydia and Bob. What did you hope to accomplish or show with this scene?

First off, I wanted the audience to be increasingly aware that they were going someplace they hadn’t been before in a movie. I knew it would provoke a lot of things, and the only one I feared was laughter - so the scene calls attention to itself through technique and makes the audience self-conscious, thoughtful about their response. We also used all the classic aesthetic tricks of movie love scenes, to declare uniquivocally: this is beautiful. Plus, it actually is beautiful and Deidra and Ryan are beautiful people.

I wanted the audience to become aware of their own awareness - their discomfort and curiosity and pleasure, and all the countless personal thoughts that they came into the movie with, but hadn’t really faced. It was my hope that when the audience was that self-aware, they would be forced to ask a simple question: why? Why is this not shown? Why are these bodies objects of ridicule or contempt?

My answer - the movie’s answer - is pretty simple: it should be shown. We’re all ugly, and we’re all beautiful. Let’s not hide so much, and let’s not look away. I think the sex scene affects people so strongly because it’s not just about “them,” it’s about us.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Gers treats this - well-done sex scenes in recent movies are rare, and I don't think I've ever seen one with a fat man, outside of a German porno flick which I saw in college.

Finally, a parenthetical note on heroic fat male characters. I just watched the Babylon 5 episode "Racing Mars" (Season 4, Episode 10.) In it we meet Mars resistance fighter and smuggler Captain Jack (Donovan Scott), the bewhiskered and quite round older man familiar with "pleasures of the mind and pleasures of the body." In a rare display of heroism involving a fat man, Jack sacrifices himself to avoid betraying the resistance movement. And we know Jack at one time was a lover as well, as he talks of his daughter. Just another little grain of sand, but put enough of them together, and you have a whole beach ...
men_in_full: (bacchus de vos)
While the culinary rodent Remy might have been the furry star of the Oscar's Best Animation pick Ratatouille, the presiding "genius" of the film is his wonderfully floaty fat mentor, master chef Auguste Gusteau. Rarely has a fat man in animation been so suffused with artistic power, energy, creativity, an air of subtle sexuality, but Pixar brings him to life in Brad Bird's film. And best of all, it's done with no fat jokes, no deprecation, no snark.

Ratatouille remarks, with spoilers )

From what I read, Pixar's next film WALL-E apparently portrays pretty negative images of fat people, as Disney watch blogger Jim Hill reports:
The first act of this film is set on Earth 700 years from now, where -- thanks to humanity's wasteful ways -- our planet is now basically one big trash heap floating in space) ... In the future, mankind has grown so slothful that everyone weighs 500 pounds and has lost the ability to walk on their own.
Shall we leave aside how people so immobile are able to build space stations, the rockets to get there, and the barcaloungers to loll around on? It's a shame Pixar has to tread this path, especially after delivering such a delightful fat character as Ratatouille's Gusteau.
men_in_full: (Default)
[ profile] shryve made a comment in the 9/17/07 entry, about how the nude model in the second photograph under discussion was "hiding little skin/fat in a world where Fat Bodies “have to be” covered."

That's an excellent point, because in this world of increasing media exposure of skin, fat bodies still "have to be covered." One of the biggest problems we have as fat people is that we are "expected" to be invisible. Those who push the envelope of invisibility often experience shame, or are "supposed to." So men are ashamed to go to the pool; women won't wear a two-piece bathing suit; neither men nor women will allow their pictures to be taken, etc. This "invisibility" is made worse by the constant media barrage of thin or "ripped" images, almost to the point that when you *do* see a large person in a neutral or even positive light, it gives you a jolt.

Here's an example. I was recently watching the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There's a scene in a mud bath salon where spa owner Nancy Bellicec (Veronica Cartwright) attends to a large man taking a treatment. She helps him out of the tub and into the shower, then is in the process of giving him a massage, right before she finds the alien copy of her husband, upon which of course all hell breaks loose.

As she was rubbing his back, and then his stomach, I found myself clenching up - waiting for the smart remark, the not-so-humorous pratfall, the subtle mockery which directors can easily introduce into a scene. But there was none. He was an incidental character, presented as just another physical type of man, without remark.

Now perhaps this seems like settling for a few crumbs, when we should get the whole cake, and I would agree. A lack of mockery isn't enough; for instance, I would like to see fat men at least once in awhile as romantic leads. But we won't get there until the large man is able to simply show himself and be seen. How many times have you seen a film where the "hot" guys take off their shirts, and the fat guy keeps his on? This won't change until fat men seize glad exposure without shame, and those who love them who are unashamed to support them in it.

ETA: moviechubs on tumblr found a pic!

Bearmythology also has a .gif of the scene (scroll down.)

men_in_full: (ali baba)
... with the announcement of a possible film version of John Kennedy Toole's novel A Confederacy of Dunces.

This romp through New Orleans stars the irrepressible Ignatius J. Reilly (pictured left), a gargantuan lover of medievalism, masturbation, and Stoic philosophy, whose perpetually indignant heart is matched only in size and enthusiasm by his permanently spasmodic gastric valve. Ignatius harasses the New Orleans "po-leece," shows us a remarkably efficient business model in his office job (don't file the papers, just toss them), and tries to launch liberation movements for the oppressed, such as the Crusade for Moorish Dignity and a similar effort among the screaming queens of the French Quarter. (It was written in the early sixties, after all.)

I tip Ignatius's green earflapped hat to Rod Dreher of the Crunchy Con blog, who linked to this Slate Magazine article about how attempts to bring this novel to the screen have been as spastic as Ignatius's valve. But mine almost closed shut permanently when I read that they plan to star Will Ferrell as Ignatius.

Will Ferrell. In a fat suit.

This is one of my favorite books, ever. (I only didn't put Ignatius J. Reilly down on the list of "fictional characters I'd do" meme because he's so resolutely anti-sexual. It just wouldn't be fun ...) I don't expect the film to be anything like the book. But this is so wrong, I don't know where to begin.

First, there's the fat suit. I admit that in a film like Shallow Hal it was necessary, given the story line. But Ignatius doesn't magically switch between thin and fat. Ignatius is always fat. So there is no dramatic need for one.

Fat suits are a caricature of fat people, just like black-painted faces and exaggerated cornrows on white actors at the turn of the century grotesquely caricatured African-Americans. Portraying black people as ugly just reinforced the rampant racial prejudice of the time. Showing thin fat-suited actors is not the same as casting a real fat person, because the ugly and artificial fat suits don't look anything like a fat body.

They also send the message that just as black actors needed to be segregated from whites (even in separate entertainment districts, like New York's Harlem), fat people are somehow so "tainted" that they can't be given a starring movie role, even for a fat character.

Nor does a fat suit do justice to this character. Ignatius needs to be played by someone fat. Really fat, someone with the walk, the moves, the voice. He can't just lumber around like Fat Albert, under 100 lbs. of latex foam.

You know who would make a great Ignatius? Jorge Garcia from the TV show "Lost" (pictured right.) In that case, I might add Ignatius to my "fictional characters I'd do" list anyway...
men_in_full: (Default)

Lasse Hallström's film Casanova is a patchwork of plot twists, humorous deceptions, and mistaken identities as Casanova (Heath Ledger) weasels his way through Venice in pursuit of the lovely but skittish Francesca (Sienna Miller.) This brilliant girl, who writes philosophy and proto-feminist texts under an assumed male name, rejects him because she fears he cannot commit himself to just one woman - even though Casanova is determined to convince her otherwise.

But there's a secondary story in this movie too, one in some ways almost more romantically warming than the sometimes literal back-and-forth sparring between Casanova and Francesca. For Francesca has been betrothed to her late father's friend, the ample-bodied lard merchant Paprizzio (Oliver Platt enhanced with a fat suit) whom neither Francesca's mother Andrea (Lena Olin) nor her daughter have ever seen.

Paprizzio has come to Venice to claim his bride, docking in a ship festooned with Bacchanalian carvings of big-bellied men. Shrewd and aggressive in business but shy and insecure when it comes to women, Paprizzio feels abashed and inadequate because he knows he's not "handsome," and he begs Casanova for "help."

Hallström pulls a "bait and switch" with this character. At first we see Paprizzio as a clown, and his nadir comes when Inquisitor Pucci (Jeremy Irons) finds him undergoing a humiliating "treatment" in Casanova's apartment, where he's stretched out, rack-like, on a table and slathered with noxious goo. Pucci thinks he's Casanova, and before arresting him, sneers at his mostly-naked form, "Somehow I find it difficult to believe that ... this ... is what women want." We take the bait - obviously Paprizzio is simply a "fat fool."

The switch comes during the Masked Ball scene, the apex of the story where all hidden is revealed. Ironically, a window for happiness opens up for Paprizzio because of the very attribute which initially made him ashamed - because Francesca's mother likes big men. (As she tells Casanova while he's pretending to be Paprizzio, "I don't like thin men - Francesca's father was enormous.")

An angry Paprizzio stalks into the Ball with the cold controlled fury of the phlegmatic man. He walks slowly, ponderously, towering over many of the revellers. Whatever happens, we know it isn't going to be good for anyone who gets in his way. Then Andrea sees him, and it's wonderfully filmed. She stares unabashedly. He stops, hesitant. He can sense someone's watching him, but whom? Then he sees her, and she instinctively puts her fan in front of her mouth, that "veiling" expression to hide the well of overflowing emotion. Suddenly we see him as she does - he moves from fat and awkward to strong, powerful - and desirable.

In sweet confusion, Paprizzio thinks that Andrea is really Francesca, his fiancee. "I never imagined you would be so beautiful," he breathes. Andrea tells him that Francesca is in love with someone else, and the change in tone is palpable. You can almost see Paprizzio's heart swell with hope. When Pucci interrupts them, Paprizzio casually lifts him by the neck and in an almost-whisper says, "Why don't you stop interfering, thank you?" and so Pucci scurries off, ratlike.

For Paprizzio has escaped both racks - the rack of the Inquisition, and the rack of the desire to appear as he is not, according to some ideal of beauty which does not fit him, and which (confirmed by Andrea's love) he does not need.
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In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the Ghost of Christmas Present appears in Scrooge's room and transforms it:

The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney ...

Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.

In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see:, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

'Come in.' exclaimed the Ghost. 'Come in and know me better, man.'"

The image on the right is from the rare 1971 Oscar-winning animated version directed by Richard Williams (of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? fame.) In Williams' interpretation, Christmas Present's generosity of form also reflects the expansiveness and charity of the season that gets left out in so many adaptations, for this Christmas Present takes Scrooge not just to Bob Cratchit's and Fezziwig's homes, but to the home of the miners, the lighthouse keepers, and the ship at sea as well. So his fullness of body (rather than reflecting gluttony) serves as an emblem of the generosity, openness, and hospitality Dickens wishes us to associate with the season for those in all walks of life and circumstances. And he uses a "jolly giant, glorious to see," full in body and spirit, to do so.

The Ghost of Christmas Present wasn't cut from whole cloth by Dickens. Before there was the commercialized "Santa Claus" as we know him, there was "Father Christmas," whom Dickens appropriated for his Spirit. He's middle-aged, not old, with the wideness and solidity that some men grow into with time. With his green fur-trimmed robe, his crown of holly, his "capacious breast" that disdained "to be warded or concealed by any artifice," his hint of wildness and phallic torch, he perhaps hails from the Green Man of pre-Christian England.

Today we are cautioned against the season as a mortal threat to diets. That sounds similar to the Puritan disdain for Christmas, where fear and suspicion of the twelve-day long season peaked during the ascendancy of Oliver Cromwell. The 17th century Puritan parliament's "Godly Party" embarked on a twenty-some year attempt to snuff out the celebration, seen as sinful, luxurious, wasteful, and a harbinger of pre-Puritan days. But in older Catholic and Anglican celebrations,

... there was also the concept of a ‘Father Christmas’, more as a figure that oversaw the community celebrations than as someone who gave presents to children. ... It was a period of leisure, of eating and drinking to excess, of dancing and singing, gambling, gaming and stage plays (though modern-style pantomimes did not emerge until the eighteenth century), of drunkenness and sexual immorality, a period when normal rules and self-control did not apply, a period of deliberate inversion and ‘misrule’. (Ref.)

C.S. Lewis had his Cromwellian White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe enchant Narnia so that it was "always winter and never Christmas," and it's the coming of Father Christmas that signals the end of her ascetic and bitter reign.

The Spirit stood beside sickbeds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by sruggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery's every refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not made fast the door, and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts.

As he might us. God bless us, every one, and hold us fast in the embrace of Christmas Present in this upcoming season.


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September 2013



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