Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday Viewing

Lady Jean Inhales
Yesterday, TCM aired the 1947 film Black Narcissus, based on the Rumer Godden novel about a convent of nuns attempting to "civilize" a village in the Himilayas. One nun goes crazy over a sexy sybarite (Mr. Dean), and another, played by the esteemed Flora Robson, goes crazy over flowers, planting daffodil, sweet pea, chinese lily, tulip, honeysuckle and foxglove where her vegetables should have been.

Sister Phillipa leaves the convent because, "I was becoming too fond of the place...there's something in the atmosphere that makes everything exciting. One must be either like Mr. Dean or the holy man [a hermit who doesn't speak], either ignore it or give yourself up to it."

Narcissus is a kind of psychoactive daffodil. Shown is another esteemed actress, Jean Simmons, inhaling its fragrance in the film.

Following the film was a restored version of the 1937 classic Lost Horizon, complete with a scene of a bacchanal attended by Edward Everett Horton (who did the "Fractured Fairytales" on Rocky & Bullwinkle). Horton plays his usual wracked-with-insecurities character, who finally relaxes after this scene and begins to enjoy Shangri La. "There are moments in every man's life when he glimpses the eternal," is a line from the film that Capra repeated in 1948's The State of the Union.

Shangri La's High Llama, who must have been the inspiration for Yoda in Star Wars, was prescient when he spoke of the modern world, "What madness there is, what blindness..humanity crashing headlong against each other in an orgy of greed and brutality. The time must come when this orgy will spend itself, when the urge for brutality and lust for power must perish by its own sword....When that day comes the world must begin to look for a new life. It is our hope that we will find it here...a way of life based on one simple rule: Be Kind."

Last week, TCM aired I Love You, Alice B. Toklas as part of its Peter Sellars tribute. I was surprised how well the film held up, and on how many levels it worked. Leigh Taylor Young was luminous in her first film role as the hippie girl who bakes Sellars his pot brownies. She was nominated for a Golden Globe as New Star of the Year for the performance.

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