Recently Rated Movies #61 (but not really): Moontide (1942)

A couple months ago, I started an experiment. Not a really awe-inspiring one, but merely something that was to allow me to write about more films in a shorter period. Just a simple little experiment. Trying desperately to keep up with the massive nature of my movie-watching habits, I started a regular series of entries that actually sought to capture the true nature of blogging: that blog posts were really meant to represent an online version of journal entries. I have stated from the beginning of this particular portal of mine (nearly three years ago -- sheesh!) that the purpose of it was to serve as exactly that: a working notebook for me to place my thoughts and theories on film and film history.

And then that notebook, the Cinema 4 Pylon, turned into a veritable essay fest. Caught up in a deathless writing fervor, my posts grew longer and longer, as I became ever more comfortable with my online voice. It was a voice, I might add, for which I had been seeking for the past twenty years or so, and perhaps the truth of that is it was always waiting there in me, I just needed the right (write?) vehicle to scare it out of me. I don't care what anyone really thinks of this voice; after all, this is my notebook, and comments on here, while appreciated or at least listened to with a keenly attentive ear, are not the point. All I know is that I have found a voice, and this is where it lives.

Naturally, because I am the sort of bastard that doesn't let sleeping dogs snore, I had to poke that voice with a stick. I started that series of posts called the Waking Into A Dream Journal. I did not explain this to my small and relatively attentive audience of friends. I just put up the first post, and let it fly. The idea was to write immediately about whatever movie (possibly, eventually, it could even be about books, TV, music or comics) I happened to watch as I arose for the day, with the text punched out swiftly before I left out the door on the way to work. They were to be short, possibly scatterbrained pieces, composed primarily of notes I made mentally as I watched the film, and often loaded top to bottom with the sort of throwaway jokes that normally get weeded out were I to shape these notes into a more cohesive post.

In fact, the original intent was for the entries to be entirely stream of consciousness, and it wasn't supposed to matter whether it made sense or not. The point was that when you first wake up in the morning, your head is still all full of "dream stuff," or you could even possibly still be partially asleep, and thus, whatever you watched first thing that morning would take on elements of that dream-state. In fact, I would have been most happy were I to have entered a blissful bout of "automatic writing" in the Waking Into A Dream Journal entries. Reaching this state would have proven to be the purest case of the "notebook" aspect I had originally envisioned for this site.

And it all went awry. It worked, somewhat, for a little while. I was able to incorporate some dream logic into the posts, or if not, I was able to at least expound upon what I remembered from my dreams and crash it up against whatever crappy film I was forcing myself to watch that morning. Often, though, I would only watch part of a film before using what time I had left before work to knock out a quick, rambling paragraph. Oh, yes, the structure. I was trying to keep each entry down to a single paragraph to force my hand at keeping things brief, and each sentence or thought was to be separated by double-hyphens or ellipses. On top of this, the entire thing was to be written in lower-case letters only -- no capitals at all, though I could use italics to make a point. Each entry was to resemble a pack of notes, and nothing more.

This lack of a need to keep things grammatically correct, and the ability to put up just a few slapdash words before jumping to the next thought was freeing to a large degree, but I found myself wishing to complete the damn thing each time. To stretch it out to what would be its natural length in my head, and I would often go off to work rewriting it, even though I was not planning on doing so later. The hyphen and/or ellipse plan grew to be uncomfortable to me, as did the lack of capitals and other punctuation, especially for a guy who finds himself constantly editing the work of others. Often, I would start off a post at a rapid pace, only to find myself reverting to my true form halfway through, and then I would have to go over my tracks to render things to their "Neanderthal" self, and it would knock the wind right out of my sails every single time. The final blow came when I spent a couple of hours randomly checking out some other blogs on Blogger, and whenever I encountered a site that was regularly written even partially in this style -- 1 long, undefined paragraph, hyphens and ellipses all over the place, separating extremely random, not even half thought-through material -- I found it massively annoying. After one especially egregious example of this (a political knitting site, nonetheless, which could have been cool if the style didn't give me a migraine), I decided instantly to drop the whole matter.

And so, I am back to posting individual movie reviews in the Pylon's Recently Rated Movies section. I've done this all along, but more attention to more films will now be focused here, at least until I decide to rework the Dream Journal into a new form. This is a sad state of affairs for the film Moontide, though, a tough little slice-of-wharf-life from 1942, which I knocked through early Saturday morning, which I would have then followed up by writing about it that now-extinct style.

Besotted by its lovely nighttime and seaside scenes with Jean Gabin and Ida Lupino slowly realizing how these two sad excuses for normality are really all they need to continue through life (Gabin is a tough-guy sailor drunkard who is being framed for murder by his manipulative best friend; Lupino is the suicide case he rescues and then can't seem to let get away), I would have told you of the recurring dream I have where I am smoking cigarettes with Ms. Lupino in a car in a dramatically altered version of They Drive By Night. Things start to turn all steamy, with the requisite number of period-appropriate face-slaps, but at the point that the real action begins, Ms. Lupino turns into porn star Taylor Rain, who bears absolutely no resemblance to Ms. Lupino whatsoever. (In fact, Ms. Rain bears a striking similarity to an old friend of mine, of whom I have never had cause to dream directly, so perhaps Ms. Rain is a more, shall we say, "willing" stand-in for this person. Go ahead... call me crude and lascivious. I can't help what and whom I dream about...)

Naturally, once things really get going, I wake up. I did not actually have this dream the morning before I watched Moontide, but it has happened numerous times, and it does reflect somewhat on my willingness to watch Ida Lupino movies, no matter the style or subject matter. I would then launch into the dream I actually did have that night, one of a burning circus tent and an endless stream of charging, frightened animals pouring through the flaps of the tent, all of which I try vainly to corral, suffering many bites, stomps and scratches along the way. Taking far too much space to reflect upon what this all meant, I would no doubt give short shrift to Moontide's excellent turn by the incredible Claude Rains, who plays the quiet, bespectacled fellow who holds the key to the happiness of Lupino and Gabin, in a solid supporting part he knocked out before Now, Voyager and Casablanca. I would also take little time to muse on the comforting notion of invented family that rises suddenly from the gathering of this disparate group of wharf-rats, and that, while the storyline is pulpy beyond salvation, it is this very feeling of friendship and familial duty that gives the film its purpose, and saves it ultimately for the viewer.


And all of this would be surrounded by a stew of double-hyphens and ellipses and lower-case preposterousness that would serve to bring a migraine to even the worst language abuser on the worst run board in Internet-Land.

...aren't you glad that i don't fool around like that -- i mean -- anymore... ?

Moontide
Director: Archie Mayo // 1942, Twentieth Century Fox
Cinema 4 Rating: 6

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