SKLR interlude 002 03/01/14

My letter box has started banging and clattering as various DVDs turn up.
I’ve been ordering a selection of my favourite railway themed films and I’m
assembling a great pile on the floor in front of the TV.  I sometimes wish
I’d been born with two functioning heads. That way I could watch two films
at once but I suppose I’d soon get terrible neck ache. Two heads must weigh
quite a bit.
I’ve already been re-running many golden age classics in my collection, such
films as Hitchcock’s ‘The Lady Vanishes’, ‘Strangers on a Train’ along with
perennial The Titchfield Thunderbolt and ‘The Train’ directed in stark black
and white by the inspired John Frankenheimer. You can almost taste the
engine oil dripping from the trains in some of the deliberately overexposed
shots.
If pushed as to a favourite train picture I’d admit I have a particular
fondness for the Czech New Wave movie ‘Closely Observed Trains’. To be fair,
it is a product of it’s time ­ as much as anything ­ but the black humour
really resonated with me when I first saw it back in the early 80’s. It’s
one of those movies that almost says, ‘Hey, I bet you didn’t know a film
could be like this’. That’s a characteristic common to much of the Czech,
Polish and French New Wave output and an endearing one.
Re-watching films is always a delight. You forget so much. I’d forgotten
completely that the opening shot of ‘The Lady Vanishes’ is actually a huge
model, complete with mechanically operated figures on the platform. After
the static opening credits, the camera pans slowly across the model to
reveal a train snowed in by an avalanche. We cut to the Gasthof Petrus, an
overcrowded Inn where the passengers have decamped. Hitchcock has great fun
with the sound and creates a great cacophony as people shout and tussle for
a room while others bash around in the background. The sound mix is highly
creative and technically impressive for its time ­ 1938.

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