My latest Tweet: “I'm going to see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes tomorrow with my daughter and the two of us will pretend this whole Madonna thing never happened.”
I’m hardly a fanatical Marilyn Monroe completist by any stretch of the imagination. I was introduced to Monroe by proxy, as I’m sure many of my generation were, through the wiles and saucy charm of Tina Louise’s Ginger. It doesn’t particularly bother me that I have yet to see Niagara or The Prince and the Showgirl, though I am a bit annoyed that I still haven’t found time for Don’t Bother to Knock, with it just sitting there in my Netflix Instant Play queue and all. And though I have had a copy of the mass market paperback of Norman Mailer’s book on the actress, I must admit I’ve read Pauline Kael’s fascinating probe of Mailer’s prose at least 15 times since my senior year in college. (Times I’ve read Mailer’s book: zero, though I fully intend to one day.) But there is just something so pure and magical and undiluted about Monroe’s carnal gold-diggery in Hawks’ musical—not one of the great musicals, I don’t think, but certainly one of my favorites—that even 57 years later it’s as clear and suggestive as one of the actress’s patented giggles why Monroe became a superstar in life and transcended such earthbound classifications in death.
The Seven-Year Itch wasn’t her best film (or Billy Wilder’s), but it gave birth to her single most enduring image-- a gust of wind from a passing subway car whooshing up through a sidewalk grating, lifting her billowing skirt above her knees and up toward the firmament of Hollywood legend while Monroe beams with unexpected pleasure. (It’s one that has certainly been parodied and appropriated to death, but Anna Faris managed to find a little steam left in it when she did her own version over a percolating manhole in The House Bunny.) And who’s to say that her work for Wilder in The Seven-Year Itch and, of course, Some Like It Hot, doesn’t represent the Marilyn that most movie fans—the ones who are predisposed to treasure her image, anyway—carry with them in their hearts? Personally, I’ll take Lorelei Lee, on stage in that hot pink dance number that Madonna pilfered and rejiggered to fit her own amorphous ends, just hanging out and matching curves with Jane Russell, and especially stuck in a porthole trying to charm the preternaturally composed Georgie Winslow’s Henry Spofford III. Jane and her shade will take comfort in the fact that not all gentlemen prefer the fair-haired type (and you know Jane Russell never believed that shit for a second), but for 91 minutes in a movie directed by Howard Hawks you will believe that a blonde can sing, dance, and maybe even fly, and at the same time fill up every nook and cranny of a viewer’s desire-filled heart. But not just any blonde. It’s an arguable point, of course, but for me the legend of Marilyn Monroe begins with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Rack up another eclectic weekend coming up. In addition to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, there is still a sliver of hope that I’ll get in to the AFI fest screening of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives on Saturday night, though that sliver is at this point as see-through as one of Paul Sorvino’s garlic slices:
I’m much more likely to get a ticket to see Fredrick Wiseman’s Boxing Gym, which opens this weekend theatrically, so any old schmoe can see it:
Then again, I have not yet done my duty to my funny bone and seen Jackass 3D yet, and right now I could definitely use a heart attack-inducing laugh:
There are a couple of treats waiting for me at home which will void the temptation to spend $39 on popcorn and sodas (that’s just for me, of course) by going to the theater. Ever since I finished Jim Thompson’s Pop. 1,280 I’ve had Bertrand Tavernier’s Coup de Torchon at the ready, and this weekend it might just be time:
And somehow a copy of the beautiful new Criterion Blu-ray of House made it into my, well, house last night, and my, does that movie look good in 1080p full high definition. My manga-crazy daughter, who finds the poster image frightening as hell, took a brief look last night and was intrigued, but my youngest, who loves to draw the goriest horror movie posters imaginable, saw the trailer and when the girl gets eaten by the piano—just the sort of imagery she revels in when it’s coming out of her own head—she screamed and proclaimed she would never, never, never watch this movie! (Pay close attention to the souped-up subtitles, courtesy of my colleagues Haruka Sometani and new daddy Colin Walker.)
So what’s on your screening menu for the weekend? Whatever it might be, I hope you enjoy it and have a great couple of days off. I feel like all I've been doing for the past two weeks is writing, so I'm gonna take a little break over the weekend, but we’re back in the swing of things on Monday. I owe a certain Self-Styled Siren an essay, after all, and it’s time to pay up! And, oh, yeah, my wife and I will be toasting our 17th anniversary over sushi and The Social Network on Saturday night. Parents night out once a year? Nah, more like two or three times. But this one is special. Happy anniversary, sweetheart. Marilyn's got nothing on you.