Thursday, 10 July 2008


I haven't written a blog for the best part of a week, so, despite the facts that 1) I have nothing to say, and 2) nobody reads this, I have. Written a blog. This one*.

If you've got this far, it means that you've eluded my recursive-loop trap, congratulations. Now you've proved your worth, the real word-brilliance will commence:

It is six-fifty-eight AM.

I have not slept; after a few hours in bed I gave up on that prospect in order to write a prog-rock song on my digital piano. Only time will tell whether this was the correct course of action.

Last night I watched the movie Chinatown for only the second time. Although it is a fine work, I don't believe that it deserves its reputation as the "greatest kung-fu comedy of 1936." Jack Nicholson's moves are all pretty ropey looking, if you ask me, and the one-liners are few and far between. Having said that, the scene in which he gets his left nostril sliced open by the director, Roman Polanski, is a veritable laugh riot. Legend has it that this incident was not originally included in the script; it was a fortuitous ad lib. Back in the '70s, when Nicholson was at his peak, he used to wander around at night with a small camera crew, looking for opportunities to do some 'real' acting. He would barge into people's houses and pretend to be a cuckolded husband, stumbling in on his wife and her lover in flagrante delicto. He would get into fights with young punks and then beat them senseless, crying "Why did you make me do this, Jonny? Do you think me a monster?!" with tears streaming down his face. He would sleep with hookers and pretend that they were his tender beloveds, then he would go home to Anjelica Huston and claim to be a door-to-door pornography salesman, whereupon he would attempt to sell her the footage. This would crack her up, apparently.

One night, early in the filming of Chinatown, Nicholson and his crew were hanging around outside Polanski's fortified compound, taking it easy after a hard day's work. Suddenly, Nicholson got the idea to break into the director's private skate park (he could have been the Tony Hawk of his day, if he'd got his priorities right) and steal some dirt from the ground; apparently he had this notion that he would start an anonymous blackmailing campaign as a prank, sending letters in which he would claim to "have the dirt on you, you Polack dwarf." However, after scaling the chainlink fence that covered the perimeter of the park, the actor was confronted by two men: a security guard and Polanski himself. Nicholson did not recognise the director, who had been wearing a World War II gas mask for the duration of the shoot, in order to raise money for a charity that dealt with respiratory ailments. Polanski realised this, and decided that he would play a prank of his own, by threatening to cut off his star's nose. Unfortunately, he had not counted on a recurrence of his Situational Parkinson's Disease, which was triggered by the prospect of his being exposed to violence, causing him to slip at a key moment and actually mutilate Nicholson's face.

The next morning, Polanski arrived on set with a heavy heart, thinking that he had derailed his own project, but he found that Nicholson was actually delighted with the whole incident ("Just about the best goddam acting I ever done!"), and that he was determined to get the footage into the film. The director, scarcely able to believe his luck, immediately concurred, and conceived a new scene based around the incident. By an additional stroke of fortune, later scenes, some of which had been filmed prior to that fateful night, already featured Nicholson wearing a bandage on his nose. This had been intended all along, and the response that he gives in the film to one person who asks about his injury was originally supposed to be sincere. The shaving response, that is, not the other one.

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