Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Diane Arbus meets the Platters

Watching The Girl Can't Help It (dir. Frank Tashlin, 1956), I thought of an exchange from Ghost World (dir. Terry Zwigoff, 2001). Rebecca Doppelganger and Enid Coleslaw are attending a high-school graduation party:

Rebecca: This is so bad it's almost good.

Enid: This is so bad it's gone past good and back to bad again.
Those two descriptions cover most of the ninety-seven minutes of The Girl Can't Help It. But there are several minutes in the film that are plainly good — among them, those of a beautiful lip-synced performance by the Platters. As the group pretends to sings "You'll Never Know," there are two brief crowd shots of Diane Arbus-like strangeness:

[Click for larger views.]

These shots were no doubt meant for laughs. In my house, we screamed, "went back" (can't say rewind anymore), hit Pause, and screamed again. Aiee!

Here's a portfolio of Arbus' photographs (browse at your risk).

comments: 2

macon d said...

Nice catches, and I agree, very Arbusian, wow. I remember a similar moment in Spartacus, a reaction shot of just one man's face. He looked like a total geek, but in the older sense of that term. The moment was so jarringly out of synch with the rest of the scene that the theater audience erupted in laughter.

I didn't know that that's Rebecca's last name--interesting! She does follow Enid around a lot, like a shadow.

Michael Leddy said...

It's nice to think of an audience willing to trust its instincts.

Speaking of names, Enid Coleslaw = Daniel Clowes.