Sunday, 29 April 2012

The All-Wet Blog-a-Thon

Ready to get wet, y'all?
Two years ago I hosted the first official Wet Blog-a-Thon (here) and it spawned some lovely posts. So, I felt it was time revisit the rain in cinema. There are endless possibilities of cinematic precipitation and as with any blog-a-thon it’s a rewarding experience to see where fellow filmic enthusiasts go when they think about a specific impetus – this time the rain.

My mind kept racing through so many films (I stored screen-caps from a 2009 film, a 1986 film, a 1992 and a 2011 one – all of the fine examples) and in many ways they had more logical opportunities for a post about getting wet. Because, I ended up looking at Altman’s Gosford Park, and although the rain hair is hardly insidious it’s not quite romantic….and yet….

 The thing about movie rain is that it almost looks much more glamorous and enjoyable than it is. For example, unless you’re incredibly lucky standing in the rain for extended periods means you’re bound to catch a cold – or at the very least be very uncomfortable.
The rain is not especially pretty in this scene, nor is it particularly helpful. The film opens with rain. Even before we see a discernible image in Gosford Park we hear the steady patter of the rain. Why? Altman’s meticulousness is renowned and the rain at the film’s opening could be a marked indication of the storm to come within the next three days while still (as we’ll see) serving as a nice blanket to show the way this world works.

          Driver: “Don’t just stand there. Give me a hand with the canopy.”

Ostensibly Gosford Park is a murder-mystery, but underneath it is – instead – an assessment of the class system in Britain in the 1930s. And, with such an expansive main theme there are a number of issues examined.

This opening scene in the rain, though, touches on two significant ones – the dependency of the upper-class on their servants and the silliness which comes with the hierarchical system. Mary is only a lady’s maid so the driver can do silly things like order her around. She must stand in the rain to ensure that her boss – Lady Trentham – enters the vehicle unimpeded. And, off we go…  

Gosford Park is a delightful blend of farce, humour and melodrama and Fellowes and Altman don’t leave us there. We’ve still got more raindrops to endure. And the crux of this rain opening depends on the blend of those three – especially the first two.

          Lady Trentham: “I can’t open this wretched thing!”

So, in the midst of the rainy car ride Mary must get out to help Lady Trentham open that wretched thing. There are so many ridiculous things at work right there.
The first is the seemingly ineffectual disposition of the Countess. There’s a running thread as the film develops of the Countess’ meanness manifesting itself in these throwaway moments. Is she really incapable of removing the cap or is she breaking in her new maid? She is a woman so privileged and indolent that the simple act of removing a bottle cap is something she refuses to do on her own.

So, let me concoct a far reaching metaphor. The rain – with its imminent danger despite its prettiness – is a stand-in for all the dangerous things in the thirties. Poor lower-class Mary is forced to endure it, its wetness, its danger, while upper-class Countess Trentham avoids it at all costs. But, the end of the feudal system is looming and Mary will become acclimated to the rain and its ways having been thoroughly soaked by it. When the future arrives the discomfort of the rain will be a treasure.

Coming behind them is another car and it’s through the rain we see the first shot of Mr. Ivor Novello and his obsequious producer.

It is a sign of the changes to come and the way they emerge, and true Mary might be left standing in the rain…but she won’t be there forever. When the film ends Mary has learned more than anyone in the film. She’s still a maid, but she’s not bound by the cloak of ignorance. She’s weathered the storm (pardon the cliché), and I like to think that the actual storm she endures at the beginning is an indication of that.

See that smile on her face there? She may be standing in the rain, but Mary’s naturally open personality allows her to appreciate it. Metaphorically, and literally.

And now, fellow rain lovers...

Son of Celluloid looks at horror in the rain with Freaks link
Paolo examines not the natural rain but definitely some form of precipitation in Inception. link
Nick doesn't look at natural rain either but romantic, water-based romance in Elizabethtown link
Jim is exploring the infinite the rain...with Garden State link
Ryan takes us to a rainy concentration camp with X-Men: First Class link
Shala reminds us that Paris is beautiful in the rain with Midnight in Paris link
Amir wonders where the rain comes from as Ben is caught in that strange love triangle of sorts in The Graduate link
Ingo tells us that there's nothing like an all-wet fist fight in the rain with Cyborg link
Jude gives us both a romantic meeting from Great Expectations and a visual feast for the eyes from Prospero's Books link
Vincenzo likes how the past and the present collapse to form one with the rain in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind link
Bodhi got a bit carried away (his words) and took a look at horrific wetness in It, Urban Legend, An American Werewolf in London, Poltergeist and Return of the Living Dead link
Ruth lists ten significant rain scenes including stellar ones from Ben Hur, The Truman Show, Road to Perdition and V for Vendetta. link

A hearty thanks to them all for patronising me and being a part of this little venture. Now, go read each others pieces and let's have some fun in the rain.


ZombieBodhi said...

I'm seeing lots of fantastic rain scenes, some I would have never thought of and some that are classics. I have yet to see Gosford Park but I'm definitely adding it to the list.

Thanks for hosting a great blogathon!

Nick Prigge said...

Man, such an interesting scene to pick. I confess when I watched "Gosford Park" none of what you write about here really even occurred to me, and yet you're right on. I see everything you're saying.

I need to re-visit this movie.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

zombiebodhi thank YOU for participating.

nick my love for this movie is a bit boundless, i've seen it waaaay often. and with altman's always moving camera it does reveal things in spades upon re-watches.