Monday, December 28, 2015

Smarty, Robert Florey, 1934

"Why are you laughing?"
"Because I'm amused!"
Even the most simple, allegedly self-explaining expressions are in need of explicit explanation, verbal and (maybe even more important) gestural interpretation in Smarty, a late precode extravaganza. On the narrative surface it's a low budget and decidedly gruff take on the remarriage comedy that both emblematically embodies and frenetically deconstructs the inherent sexism of classical cinema, while at the same time quite openly exploring the mechanics of masochist desire.

Because Smarty is first and foremost an experimental film. Because of the acting. Especially because of the re-acting. If the actions feel strange, the reactions make no sense at all. Or rather, they don't follow any known pattern. It feels as if the characters have just discovered the curious act of communication and are still trying to find out quite what to do with this amazing technique. How to verbally and bodily relate to the person you're talking with. How to react to an unexpected, or even to an expected sentence. Experimenting. As if they were part of an emotional avantgarde.

The men aren't, of course. They are just plain old narcissists, of the more brutal sort, this time. Say "diced carrots" and I slap you, without really knowing (being allowed to know) why. Joan Blondell is a different matter. But the real contradiction isn't between blunt (and, until the very last shot, completely desexualized) male aggression and female submissive power play. But between words in a script and how to speak them.

No comments: