Saturday, June 04, 2011

Freaks in Love

Let's get this out of the way. There's only one reason people see Freaks these days. Here it is.

Scientists and I are still baffled as to how this is realistically possible, but look at that jacket! Quite swank for a duck-lady, I think you'll agree.

I'd seen Freaks a few years ago and somehow managed to forget this deliciously insane revelation, so I do admit, I rolled up for a packed screening in the centre of London with slightly embarrassed anticipation at the madness I'd blanked on. What I recalled from my first viewing was a rather frightening climax where the freaks move like terminators through sticky midnight mud, preceded by the most boring and stilted machinations concerning circus freaks that had ever been filmed.

But lo! What I found on second viewing were the most stilted machinations concerning circus freaks ever filmed, that somehow had a tragic romance at its heart. Real-life husband and wife Harry and Daisy Earles bagged the plum roles here, as Hans, the rich midget taken in by eventual duck-lady Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova), and his girlfriend Freida, powerless to prevent that gold-digging whore!! from stealing her man. Despite the awkward, halting manner in which the pair deliver their dialogue, there is something affecting in their performances, particularly Daisy's. As Freida becomes increasingly forgotten by Hans, the faltering speech even adds to the devastation she feels and that we feel for her.

Mostly, though, it's in the facial expressions. Harry Earles is certainly expressive - watch as he mimicks Cleopatra's sycophantic pretence - but the emotional power of Freaks is almost entirely in Daisy Earles' melancholy faces. Observe.

I think this unexpectedly beautiful shot telegraphs the tenderly tragic, and surprisingly straight, romance at the film's core, though.

Although if you've not seen the film, that probably just looks like two people facing away from the camera. AMATEURS.

P.S. Of course, none of this is as wonderfully 'hilare' as the scene where the suitors of the Siamese twins discuss how they should visit each other sometime. Just imagine the sexual intercourse.

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