Friday, December 11, 2009

DEATH IN THE TALKIES: Frank Borzage’s Liliom (1930)

It just gets weirder and weirder. Just when he is about to die, a train comes through his room and two funny looking guys, one with a mustache and both with little golden wings on their helmets, scoop him up from bed and take him on the train with them. Not to heaven–to some cloudy place with lots of fences–on yet another train! And clouds inside and outside this train, too! 

Everyone gets to sit in their prescribed Death Room–and he unfortunately gets to sit in the Suicide Room (because that was his schtick) where several characters are relaxing in the lounge compartment-dealy and chattering a lot about this and that and how they did it, all rather boring ways, too, like poison and window jumping, guns, etc. And THEY all have mustaches. I guess having a mustache makes you want to kill yourself. Also, big eyeballs.

This time in the Suicide Room telling Death Stories seems to go on forever, although it was only probably thirty seconds, still, too long, and finally, his name is called, and he is brought before–not God–no–but some mid-level type–a little too much like the love child of Don Ameche and David Niven to really be really impressive and bigger than life–and so Don/David Ameche/Niven what-have-you offers him a cigarette from a shiny silvery heaven cigarette case as he bestows upon him his ‘thoughts on life and responsibility’ while sitting comfortably on some kind of whitey marshmallow sofa and somehow, somehow, he is convinced to give Mr. Suicide another chance on earth, but not before ten years in ‘The Hot Place’ (his words, I would never have thought of that) after which he will be able to return to earth and see his child who was as yet unborn when he decided to stick a knife in his chest, which I understand is an extremely difficult thing to do–physically, I mean, (emotionally, who knows?) but then again, I really don’t know. Nor do I care to.

Luckily, this mid-level God agent Niven/Ameche guy thoughtfully gifts Hell-Bound Suicide Boy a pair of Smoke Glasses for the occasion, although I don’t know what that means or what you do with them–wear them I guess–and ten years pass by in a jiffy, ten years you don’t even get to see, which is odd, because in general they are not so skimpy and you see a lot of other things earlier, like his wife’s dress, which is rather sheer and nipple-friendly, yessir, and makes you wonder why anyone married to Mrs. Wife Sheer Dress/Well Defined Nipples would commit suicide or even think about it–I wouldn’t, but once he has done that and then his time in HP he is sweaty, of course, and he is anxious (very) to return to see his little girl and so he hops aboard train #3 or #4 it’s hard to say, very ready for a new life or whatever it is supposed to be from now on. 

Oh when will Gabriel blow his horn to signal the time is neigh for these from-now-on things? Well he, Gabriel, finally makes an appearance, and finally does do it, and for some reason Gabriel looks like David Ogden Stiers or maybe Burl Ives, I can’t decide, but somehow neither rather than both, but definitely not your classic Gabriel at all, but he is definitely dapper, dressed in a somewhat unexpected South of the Mason/Dixon White Formalwear, just like Colonel Sanders, no question about that, although can’t play the horn for beans! Some Gabriel. This heaven, I decided, is pretty low rent. Still, that doesn’t matter, cause he can hear the horn and gets back on Cloudy Train and returns (quite quickly, I am always confused by things that don’t take time) to see his little girl playing in the backyard of what was his house pre-death. She’s fairly cute, etc., and heavy on the normal. But after all the excitement he overplays his hand with her, naturally, being jittery with joy and lonely and salivating and sweaty, and the little girl, who seems to be a polite little girl (maybe a little too cute, if you want my opinion) says that she really has no wish to open the fence to someone so CREEPY AND WEIRD.  God, we have all been there, haven’t we? 

And of course this sort of thing just makes him more desperate, and then what follows naturally, creepier and weirder than ever. Until finally, with no hope left, he gives her sweet little absent daddy face a good slap–didn't see that one coming– and POOF! He disappears into the black and white heaven dust. Fini. Yet his daughter, nameless, unless you count “Darling” is surprisingly nonchalant about the POOF! Disappearing Creepy Weird Guy. And then a little, for some reason, philosophical–always nice. 

“Mother,” the little girl, whatever her name is, asks, “Have you ever had someone slap you on the face really hard, and it didn’t hurt at all? And it felt just like ... a kiss?” WHAT? I think, THE HELL? As I said, it just gets weirder and weirder. 

But not for them. Mother looks into the sky dreamily. And she gives it a big pause. 

“All the time,” she says to her daughter, now ten years and counting, who someday, eventually, Mother is going to have to name. I mean it. This girl needs to be called something. Anything. Daddyless Ten Year Old Girl won’t do. I am serious as a heart attack here. Hey. Let’s go.

No comments:

Real Time Analytics