Monday, August 23, 2004

DVD: Slapstick Symposium: The Charley Chase Collection

Chase was an essential figure in silent film comedy, a hugely popular performer who also directed under his real name, Charles Jarrott. But his work never received the critical attention of contemporaries like Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. If he was remembered at all, it was for his supporting role in the Laurel & Hardy feature SONS OF THE DESERT.

Kino’s new collection should change that. The six shorts on this disc, many directed by future Academy Award winner Leo McCarey, showcase Chase’s flair for what’s now known as situation comedy. There’s ‘Mum’s The Word,’ in which for complicated reasons Charley must pretend to be his new stepfather’s valet. And ‘Long Fliv The King,’ wherein the soon-to-be executed Charley finds himself the monarch of a small country. Chase basically perfected the high-concept comedy. Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler owe him a huge debt. No doubt their people are poring over this DVD right now, hunting for future projects.

The high point of the collection is ‘Mighty Like A Moose,’ a riotous marital comedy with shades of O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi.’ Chase appeared in more than 200 films, so with any luck more of his work will soon be available for public consumption.

In two of these shorts, Chase plays a character named Jimmy Jump, a role that would later be assumed by Laurence Fishburne in KING OF NEW YORK. (I wanted to be the first person to make the connection between the oeuvres of Chase and Abel Ferrara.) For another take on this DVD, swing by the always-terrific Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

Magazine: The New Yorker, 8/23 issue

And thus, in Alex Ross’ profile of a certain Icelandic singer, is a new adjective born: Björkian. Lord knows the woman deserves it. She’s a singular talent. And Ross doesn’t even mention her contributions to the art of the music video, particularly the staggering ‘Bachelorette’ directed by Michel Gondry.

I managed to miss Björk’s appearance during the Olympic opening ceremonies, although judging from Matt’s recap at, maybe that’s for the best.

Two favorite excerpts from Ross’ article:

“What’s most precious in her work is the glimpse that it affords ... of a future world in which ... (music) is restored to its original bliss, free both of the fear of pretension that limits popular music and of the fear of vulgarity that limits classical music.”

“Björk sang along to Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ on the radio and talked again about ‘The Master and Margarita,’ which Johann, her Pilates instructor, had just read.”

See? She is large, she contains multitudes.

Website Update: Links

And the blog roll continues to grow. Three new sites have been added, all deserving of your attention: the aforementioned Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, Bill Crider’s blog, and Jaime Weinman’s thoughts on popular and unpopular culture.