Thursday, August 18, 2005

beta spells B-A-N-A-N-A-S

indulging in Mama's banana cream pie, its alternating fluffiness and dense gooey banana-ness caps today's double feature at the Film Forum. first up was a Maria Montez montage of her upcoming films: Arabian Nights, White Savages, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Gypsy Wildcat. more than one is set in exotic Baghdad, she with tan-pancaked co-star Jon Hall and an alternating third 'savage' played by either Sabu or Turhan Bey, the extras almost always in pencil-thin goatees, and all movies described as "Fiery!" every reference to Montez's attribute of being "Bewitching!" weirdest is that each movie advertises torture devices as amusement. Blood dances, the rack, the wheel.

today it's Cobra Woman, with Montez playing twins, the high priestess evil one doing a sparkling snake dance with a cobra that alternates between being a tiny black tongue-flicking live one and a sickly-green, thick-necked puppet. she then pulls some hypnotic, glittering, venomous dance like Mariah Carey at the VMAs, manically pointing and pulling out 200 female virgins for volcanic sacrifice. the entire audience chuckles with unease at the cheesily prophetic line about the inhabitants of Cobra Island and their foolish worship of the evil priestess: "Fear has made them religious fanatics."

the second half of the double-feature is a Busby Berkeley stunna with Carmen Miranda. what can i say about The Gang's All Here, except that it is literally bananas? boundaries exist only in the audience's mind, with Berkeley flooding the rational with bewildering and vivid sensations. dosed on Technicolor (this is a rare IB Technicolor print with all original negatives destroyed in the 1970s) my presumed sense of space is constantly blown out, re-evaluation just another rickety shack before the next vibrant gale blows through to expand the scene's parameters once again, time and space rendered meaningless, the idea of a linear plot just to hold the hook. perhaps that's why one tag called it an "apotheosis in vulgarity"? Uncle Samba dances and slinging of war bonds barely hide the mischievous psychedelic glee that shimmies seductively on every number. yes, there is Benny Goodman (also singing about the war effort), but there's also banana-colored oxen that tow Miranda into the hallucinatory bananas and "shwaw-bewwies" sequence of "The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat." insane plantains.

and i'll just leave the children's polka-dot polka turning into a giant manicured hand meditation that reveals a futuristic hula dance (bathed in magenta light that Marian Zazeela must've based her life's work on) with a pink and lime dot dance that defies gravity and time until it crashes into a mélange of petticoats exponentially fracturing into kaleidoscopic shards scene to your imaginations. the Brady Bunch floating head finale just puts a cherry on top of the banana cream pie.


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