Yesterdays post about the newly minted term (and genre) "fiasco flick" seemed to provoke a mild spate of interest and opinion. "Big Deal On Madonna Street" was invoked--a wonderful fiasco flick if ever there was one. Louia Malle's terrific "Elevator To The Gallows" (pictured above) also occurred to me--the entire plan unravels due to a screwed up elevator? Jesus, what a fiasco. "The Great Escape?" Perhaps. Indeed, why not? I think it fits the criteria that is gradually evolving about what qualifies a movie for admittance to the fiasco pantheon. A few general rules might include:
1) The main characters should be appealing. You should either feel for them due to their stupidity or arrogance ("Madonna", "Dog Day"), admire them for their gall ("Great Escape", "Pope Of Greenwich Village") or failing either of those you should at least find them funny in a dreadful sort of way (as is everyone in "Fargo" and--discussed below--the brilliant "The Ladykillers").
2) Some war movies qualify, though I hasten to add they rarely are funny. Is "Paths Of Glory" the least amusing but truest fiasco war flick ever made? I would argue yes.
3) The subject of horror movies was broached. "Don't go in the house/room/attic/basement!" is the general theme of most horror movies. And then the dipshit teenager goes ahead and goes right into the house/room/attic/basement. But is this fiasco? Or merely a necessary step in the labored construction of a horror movie scenario? I hate horror movies. Hate hate hate hate hate hate them. They are to movies what slot machines are to gambling--the lowest possible manifestation of the art form. So as the self-appointed arbiter of this new genre, I'm banning them from the club.
4) Finally--and this is very important--it's best if nobody learns a lesson from the fiasco. Pacino's empty stare after the cops shoot his best friend ends DDA with a nihilism that's impossible to shake. I've always been convinced that the ending of "Fargo" in the bedroom with McDormand and the husband--certainly the sweetest scene in the Coen's canon--functions as an utter negation of everything that preceeded it. She's moved on to a brighter next chapter. The hell with the whole thing.
Below is a clip from one of the giants of the genre, Alexander Mackendrick and William Rose's "The Ladykillers" starring Alec Guiness, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom and the great Katie Johnson.The Coen's remade this with Tom Hanks--and not a bad job, though not strictly necessary. If you haven't seen this masterful comedy, I urge you to drop everything and experience the fiasco of all fiascos--a robbery run into the ground and a series of criminals killed off due to a helpless little old lady's unknowing involvement in the scheme. Rose, who authored the screenplay, later said that he dreamed the whole film one night and quickly woke up and wrote the screenplay in a matter of days. Dreams of fiascos abound...one should pay attention to the genre even in ones sleep.
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