Lost in the Movies: A Quick One - Behind the scenes of Reflections in a Golden Eye

A Quick One - Behind the scenes of Reflections in a Golden Eye

[As December, and with it 2008, comes to a close, let me take a moment to look back on several recently viewed (but undiscussed) movies. Each "Quick One" will be a paragraph, with the open invitation for you to keep the discussion going by leaving comments.]

My thoughts on Reflections in a Golden Eye, a very bizarre film which could either be a surreal gem or a grotesque disaster - I'm not sure yet - will have to wait for another occasion. Perhaps after I read the Carson McCullers book and discover the original context for what comes off as, by and large, wilful obscurity on the screen. Or perhaps if/when I reach John Huston in the Auteurs series (was he an auteur? consider the series' title more a question than a statement). Anyway, when the movie was over, I perused the special features. There was only one to speak of, "behind-the-scenes" footage from the Reflections set in 1966. It lasted 25 minutes, accompanied by some plangent music, essentially a drawn-out home movie of all the tedium that takes place on a film set. And I loved every minute of it - truth be told, I found it far more compelling than the feature attraction. Elizabeth Taylor bundles up against the cold, Huston rushes in to show her just how he wants her to lean against a post. She disappears into a trailer which reads "Elizabeth Taylor Burton." Brando paces around, occasionally laughing in a show of humor that is altogether absent from his performance. A stand-in for Taylor, hair done up with the same headband, nervously watches crew members at work, seeming to hope that someone will speak to her and ask what they can do to help her career along. Morning mist shrouds the horse farm, Huston reads a newspaper with headlines about a Viet Cong attack, grips yank a car by ropes so that the sound of the engine won't disrupt dialogue recording. The music and the lack of sound accomplish a poignant distancing effect, and overall we seem to be peering into a vanished, yet briefly reborn, moment. Much as I love fiction films and structured documentaries, sometimes I wonder if film's greatest, most moving potential isn't fulfilled within the realm of the home movie. Call it "reflections in a camera eye."


Tony Dayoub said...

"...willful obscurity..."

I agree, but the film itself is mesmerizing nonetheless, as it seems you found it to be also.

I think I could watch Brando read a phone book.

Joel Bocko said...

I don't know if I'd call it mesmerizing from this viewing, though I can see how it could be, but it was definitely intriguing. Doubtless, I could see it again. And Brando may be my favorite actor - have you ever seen the Maysles interview with him? Check it out - I think it's called "Meet Marlon Brando" - not sure if it's available on DVD, but I saw on TV once and it was great.

Joel Bocko said...

Good luck - it's on You Tube. You should definitely check it out:


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