Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ear-biting cinema

        Wow. I finally found and watched Norman Mailer's improvised 1970 movie Maidstone. Yup, the infamous hammer-bonking, ear biting, blood and mud wrestling flick that is among the four movies Mailer directed.

       Odd. Two days later, I read a review of Norris Church Mailer's A Ticket to the Circus: A Memoir. Church is Mailer's sixth and last wife. Her title also could sum up hubby's forays into film making: journeys into the bizarre, unreal and self-indulgence. 

       The New York Times gave Mrs. Mailer high marks for honesty in describing a life devoted to fulfilling Mailer's quirky needs and whims. Secretarial and maid service included. Example: Mrs. M labors to remodel a room taking great pains to make sure it suited all Mailer's needs and he criticizes the way she hung one of his suits. Well, yeah.

      On the Mailer movie front. Cinema verite? Gonzo Cinema? Well Hunter Thompson was talented. Mailer's entire flick is an exercise in the kind of narcissism his last missus describes.

      Maidstone was one of four films he made. His last movie, "Tough Guys Don't Dance," Mailer did not appear in. The star role went to Ryan O'Neal. The NY Times called that movie demented film noir.   The three better known ones are "Maidstone," and "Wild 90," and "Just Beyond the Law". The last one again featured Rip Torn. 

     I figured Mailer's films would be, uh, off-beat. In Maidstone, as most people know, Mailer plays famous film maker Norman T. Kinglsey. He is considering a run for president. Alter ego for Mailer, the  man who would be director, and who did run for New York mayor in 1972. 

     Yes yes the usual full frontal nudity. This is a hoot: Mailer as director is in a scene telling his prospective actresses they need to be prepared to bare all for some scenes so don't have hissy fits, yet he says bad taste in nudity makes him squeamish. Puleeeeeeeeeeeeze!  Nothing shows Mailer's sexism, racism and common-mentality better than his character's interviews-lectures to the prospective actresses. None of that for the men in the film, though.

    Worth watching? You bet. If for anything it is a worthwhile art house flick for 1) the hilarious spontaneous fight between Mailer and Torn and 2) getting a view of a person who gave us The Naked Face 1948, and The Executioner's Song in 1976, Armies of the Night in the 1960s, among other great books. Mailer was one of the literary giants of our day. What a gulf between the writer and the man who created those movies. Mailer lived quite a life. Better to have lived out loud than not at all.

   See Maidstone, uncut version, region one DVD at look for Bohemian_bungalow. 



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