Saturday, July 9, 2011

ANNEX POST: Cascade - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2


* A moment from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, in four pieces (go from bottom to top).

This is bold, self-demanding, highly effortful and aspiring visual composition - so striking not because it is "stylish" or sleek, dynamic or thrill-creating, but because it is communicative of idea and meaning.

* Being done here is the kind of allegory-making that is firmly and solely in the hands of the film director-artist -- a purely "directorial" allegory-making. For in his composition (of the dance of characters and camera), is really a graceful and conceptually full visual-symbolical encapsulation of the essence of the brothers' dynamic and the heightened meanings in it. In the form itself is contained the expression of the characters' natures and feelings: the Cook's patriarchal and parochial bullying embodied in the camera's aggression; Leatherface's pitiable vulnerability in his "volleying" in and out of the frame; and Chop-Top's dissociative, manic dissoluteness in his background presence, then ambushing the frame with more of his war-spew.

* Added on top of the articulacy of Hooper's directing is his plunging into the heightened comedic tone - tone, a separate thing from form, having its own allegorical functions and creative results. It suggests a great film adaptation of a work of the Theatre of the Absurd - Carson's script's absurdist tropes grasped by Hooper with a sense of both the comedy and the obscenity of the piece, as well as of character intimacy and the power of clowning and gesture [... yet treated with the same graceful expressiveness of camera that is so uniformly a piece in all Hooper's work, without regression to some low expectation for form in comedic film...]. In fact, Hooper's knack for entropic allegory in general, in the content he chooses, in his formalist directing, and his constant creation of environments so heightened and bleak they're practically existentialist, makes me think Hooper would definitely feel affinity with the work of the absurdist dramatists, and makes me dream of a Tobe Hooper Presents Waiting for Godot.

Cascade - BACKWARD - Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - 1/4
SHOT 1 / Sawyers peer into tunnel, inching TOWARDS the camera. / Camera is moving BACKWARDS with them.

Cascade - FORWARD - Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - 2/4
Drayton Sawyer turns on Leatherface, walks toward him AWAY from camera. / Camera begins to glide FORWARD in step with Drayton Sawyer.

Cascade - BACKWARD / THE VOLLEYING OF LEATHERFACE - Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - 3/4
SHOT 2 / Camera now facing Drayton, gliding BACKWARD in step with Drayton Sawyer. / Leatherface is volleyed in and out of the frame, acted upon by the sudden convening of wills between perspectival camera and assaulting brother.

Cascade - SIDEWAYS - Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - 4/4
Chop-Top unexpectedly ambushes the shot, the ironic culmination of the previous expressiveness achieved in the "Cascade." / SHOT 3 - A wide shot that acts to reveal the banal aftermath of the previously heightened shifting of positions.


Chip Butty said...

TCM 2's more dynamic, operatic direction really lets Jim Siedow become a scarier figure than he was in the original. Especially that low angle of him hovering over Stretch when Leatherface has cornered her in the tunnel.

JR said...

Ugh, there's so much technique going on in the final quarter of this film, I don't know where to start.

My preliminary report on MIDNIGHT MOVIE: TMI, Mr. Hooper. Mr. Goldsher, you have a sick imagination. It's a pretty addicting quick read, though. (Not quite done yet, but almost.)

Snoggett said...

I watched TCM2 again the other night. I'd forgotten how well filmed it was. Hooper's films for the most part always have excellent cinematography, and Richard Kooris's work here is exemplary - especially the scenes set in the caverns and tunnels of Narm Land. Strangely he doesn't seem to have a large body of work in motion pictures. This along with The Funhouse, Lifeforce and Night Terrors display the sort of cinematography that Hooper excels at. No matter what people think of Night Terrors, it is stunningly photographed.

The sequence in TCM2 where Caroline Williams is running through the tunnel with all the dioramas made of human corpses and bits of everyday life is a stunning example of Hooper's ability to use the camera and the soundtrack to their fullest advantage. The use of Caroline's anguished panicked panting which builds to a sort of a crescendo as Hooper's camera runs along with her is simply brilliant. I also love the scene where they have captured her and bring in Grandpa. Hooper pans his camera a way long back and then up high, and then pans the camera back in again. The man's a visual genius.

JR said...

I'm always surprised at myself that I haven't covered those dolly shots that begin the dinner scene yet. They should be pretty easy to screen cap, and they're Hooper at his most analytic and presentational. But they're brilliance is so apparent, who wouldn't have noticed how awesome those sweeping shots are already?