' ' Cinema Romantico: Shout-Out to the Extra: Bunny Lake Is Missing Version

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Shout-Out to the Extra: Bunny Lake Is Missing Version

Shout-Out to the Extra is a sporadic series in which Cinema Romantico shouts out the extras, the background actors, the bit part players, the almost out of your sight line performers who expertly round out our movies with epic blink & you’ll miss it care.

In a chat last year with Thrillist, the gastronome of robust repute, Anthony Bourdain, went off on the phenomenon of craft beer. Not on craft beer itself, per se, but on the culture surrounding it and that culture's kind of appropriation of, shall we say, bar culture. “A bar,” Bourdain said, “is to go to get a little bit buzzed, and pleasantly derange the senses, and have a good time, and interact with other people, or make bad decisions, or feel bad about your life.” This is to say, a bar is not about sitting there with a flight of five or six or seven or eight, etc., beers, all of varying flora and fauna and god knows what, comparing and considering, really tugging hard on your thinking cap. Because, as Bourdain implies, the bar is where you go to remove your thinking cap.

In recently watching Otto Preminger’s noir-y nightmare “Bunny Lake Is Missing”, in which Ann Lake (Carol Lynley) discovers her four year old daughter Bunny has gone missing from school, for the first time, I was struck my the scene where Newhouse (Laurence Olivier), the superintendent trying to get to the bottom of Bunny’s disappearance, takes Ann to a pub. “Ever been in a pub before?” he asks. “No,” she says. “Here it is,” he says, “the heart of merry old England. Complete with dirty glasses, watery beer, drafts under the doors, and a 23-inch television.” It’s a description, I think, of which Anthony Bourdain would approve, and the pub we see is not unlike the one Bourdain gives, where nobody glimpsed in the background through Ann and Newhouse’s conversation seems to be giving much thought to anything other than the beer in their glass, not even when The Zombies make a cameo appearance on a TV over the bar.

But this is best exemplified when Ann’s protective brother Steven (Keir Dullea) enters and tracks down Newhouse to give him a piece of his mind. Eventually Newhouse’s line of questioning peeves Steve and so he stands up in order to slug the superintendent, only to be held back by one of Newhouse's men. As all this unfolds, you will notice an extra in the background...

It is a little hard to see in the still I grabbed, but Steven is rearing back to punch the superintendent, and what you see is exactly how the extra plays the moment – that is, not playing the moment all. That’s an extra who has decided to play this scene with this thinking cap off. That’s an extra who has decided to play the moment as a man who has come to the bar to get a little bit buzzed and feel bad about his life, and if he feels bad about his life, what does he care about these others lives over here? Pffffft. And even as Steven is forceably ejected, the extra maintains that exact arid air, as if he is just watching a tumbleweed roll by.

Pour one out for the extra...

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