Tuesday, 17 July 2012

439: 12 + 1

“12 + 1”
Directed by Nicolas Gessner and Luciano Lucignani
Written by Marc Behm, Nicolas Gessner, and Dennis Norden

Jackie: Tim Brooke-Taylor
Bennet: Willie Rushton

“12 + 1” aka “The Thirteen Chairs” (1969) is a dreadful film. The story is the chase for jewels that have been hidden in one of twelve chairs that have been sold off to disparate buyers. The original story is from the satirical Russian novel “The Twelve Chairs” by Ilf and Petrov which is an excellent book and you should read it if you get the opportunity. The book has been adapted for the cinema numerous times but almost all drop the specific satirical aspect, and just use it as a string on which to hang various comic encounters. This film is better known for being Sharon Tate’s last film before her murder and starring a ragbag of American (Orson Welles), English (Terry-Thomas) and European (Vittorio Gassman) stars in brief appearances than for any positive or distinguishing characteristics as a comedy. The online version below looks as though it’s been filmed through someone’s filthy net curtains so that doesn’t aid the viewing experience, but even if you discount that, no comedy can survive having half of its actors dubbed, the photography and editing looking as though been done using sellotape, and if the script wasn’t garbage to begin with then having been translated backwards and forwards repeatedly has only aided the process of decomposition. There’s a section in which Orson Welles looks as though he may be enjoying himself playing dress-up in a theatre, but that’s largely immaterial here.
6.24 – 10.56
The only remaining interest then is in the gay couple played by Willie Rushton and Tim Brooke-Taylor. So: gay antique dealer. That’s already a gay stereotype with some history. A gay couple is a bit of a novelty at this time though. In line with other 1969 films about gay lifestyles such as “The Boys in the Band” and “Staircase” this is a bitchy relationship, just on the point of disintegrating nastily. Rushton is emotional (a man pleading for the affections of another is the joke here), and wearing tighter white trousers than he otherwise would in real life. Tim Brooke-Taylor, who has already had some experience over the last 5-6 years of playing gay comedy characters in “I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again”, “At Last the 1948 Show”, and “Marty Feldman”, finally gets to bring his camp stylings to the big screen. His head held with nose high in the air, and with a swishing mincing step, Brooke-Taylor is the selfish queen dealing out bitchy quips. Unfortunately, I lack the fashion expertise to describe what Jackie’s wearing in the first scene, but it’s certainly nothing a straight man would attempt. You’ll notice Rosie, his new “partner”, is a fashion designer with his oh-so groovy swinging boutique.

Jackie then becomes the film’s antagonist, a rival to find the jewels, and keeps popping up throughout the rest of the film chasing and being chased for the chairs in the film’s pursuit of slapstick. Throughout the film, Jackie has an eye for attractive or masculine men, making appreciative little “mmm”s, and constantly jealous of the interest men show other women.

0.00 – 1.10, 5.30- 6.20
These are Jackie’s scenes during the longer segment in a grand guignol theatre run by Orson Welles’s character. The better scene (to wit,. he’s actually doing something) is when Jackie escapes and intrudes upon the play then in performance with some outstanding prissy swanning about and effete cocktail bar mannerisms – this then degenerates into just a load of crappy slapstick

7.10 – 9.24
Here we a get slightly more extended instance of eying up another man with some camp insinuations. His gleeful cantering across the lawn with the two chairs isn’t too bad either. There then follows extended farcical chasing with an inevitable tumble into a swimming pool.

5.12 – 5.19 – Jackie’s pleasure at being saved by a handsome man
5.54 – 6.20 : a cry if “Hello Cheeky” when being revived

If you have just spent the last 8-10 minutes watching rather fuzzy excerpts of Tim Brooke-Taylor camping it up in this stinker, why? Historical it may be, hysterical it’s not.

No comments: