That it serves directly the intrigue or just participates in the general atmosphere of the movie, the tattoo invites itself very regularly in the cinema. It is not about a latest fad but about a long-term trend, particularly in thrillers there, which shows itself since the 1950s.
In this small retrospective of the tattoo in the cinema, Kustom Tattoo suggests you returning on the striking movies which marked out the art history physical and contributed to its popularity.
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, THE CLASSIC ABSOLUTE (1956)
« Ah, little boy, you look at my fingers! What do you think of the short history about the left hand and about the right hand, the history on the good and evil? H-A-T-E, it is with this left hand that the old man Caïn killed his brother. L-O-V-E, you see these fingers? These fingers have veins which go back up up to the soul of the man. The right hand, my friends, the hand of love. Now, I am going to tell you the history of the humanity. These hands were always fighting. Look: the left hand adores fighting, it looks like love is made, but wait! Love is winning, yes, perfectly! It is love which wins and the good old left hand is left aside.”
This cult Night of the Hunter ‘s scene, the only movie of Charles Laughton ( 1956 ) inspired a whole directors’ generation. Robert Mitchum, terrifying in reverend Harry Powell, concern each of the hands a tattoo in the glory of love and hatred. Symbols of a humanity in the grip of his devils and a character who hides the real face, Robert Mitchum’s tattoos became integral part of the popular culture, illustrating to them only the movie about its poster during its taken out again in France in 2006. Numerous film-makers paid them tribute; we think of Spike Lee who, in Doh The Right Thing ( 1993 ), decked out its character of Mookie of two identical tattoos.
THE TATTOOED (1968), MODIGLIANI, GABIN AND DE FUNÈS
In 1968, Denys de la Patellière, to whom we owe the Big Families, finds Jean Gabin, his actor idol, on the shooting of the Tattooed. Fourth and last movie making, at the same time, Louis de Funès appear and after big Gabin, after The tatouéraconte Félicien Mezeray’s story (Louis de Funès), a secondhand goods dealer of art, who discovers on the back of an ex-legionary a room(part,play) realized by Modigliani (a situation which is reminiscent of the recent revelations deKate Moss about Lucian Freud). Decided to acquire it to him, he makes a commitment to reconstruct the country house of Gabin, ignoring of course that this is a castle the Renaissance in ruins.
The tattooed is a turning point in the history of the tattoo in France. For the first time, the tattoo, far from being a trivial accessory associated with the marginality, becomes the main protagonist of a popular intrigue. If he is surly, the legionary Gabin is not less a nice type, on any account a criminal. 1968: the sign of a page which turns.
THE TATTOED MAN (1969)
Small experimental jewel, The tattooed man, of Jack Smight, is adapted by a new SF of Ray Bradbury (Farheneit 451), Tea illustrated man. Paul Newman and Burt Lancaster having declined, it is Rod Steiger who holds it the role titles. The latter wants to find and to kill the woman who covered him the body of tattoos; because de facto, these tattoos are magic and make live to those who look at them too long a past, present or future history. The only blank part of the body of Steiger, in his back, reveals its death to the careless Peeping Tom.
If tattoos serve here as elements of atmosphere, placing the character of Steiger in a studied and vaguely disturbing oddity, The tattooed man insists in his construction on the personal character of the body art, in a report in the body and in the rather modern intimate history. Every tattoo, symbol of a past event or to come, is bound in all the others to tell visually all the life of a man. Everything is said on the body.
- Adapted by the Henri Charrière’s eponym novel, the movie of Franklin J. Schaffner tells the escape attempts of a tattooed prisoner (Steve McQueen) since his penal colony of Cayenne. At the same time reflection on the freedom and the pamphlet against the conditions of detention, Papillon does not sacrifice the action to the message and proposes several spectacular scenes of escape. The description of the prison, corrupt, depraved staff, serves as counterweight to the nobility of heart of Steve McQueen more natural than ever and whose freshness of soul crushed by the confinement amounts completely to its tattoo: a butterfly.
This movie from Barcelona of 1976, realized by Bigas Lunas, establishes(constitutes) the first film adaptation of the adventures of the detective Grandpa Carvalho. The movie so opens: a body appears from streams, the face was devoured by fishes, unrecognizable. On the arm, a tattooed sentence: ” I was born to revolutionize hell “. Grandpa Carvalho leads investigation the survey.
Monument underestimated by the post-pro-Franco cinema, Tatuaje, whose offspring is rather confidential, establishes(constitutes) an excellent thriller realized in still very industrial and rather poor Barcelona. The blackness of the survey sticks on the frame of a city invaded by smokes and cesspools. Portrait of a time which looks for itself, between freedom and conformity, the movie evokes a company split and weakened by the Francoism, in the grip of a mysticism.
More than the starting point of the intrigue, the tattoo of the corpse concentrates to him only this shady atmosphere of imbricated alleys.
Tatuaje will mark a break in the Spanish cinema, in particular from Barcelona; at first by its soundtrack, which will lay the foundations for Onda Layetana, a Catalan musical current which will dominate the cultural production of the 1970s. Then because he will be the inspirator of a cultural bubbling inciting to the small film production and which will allow the big names of the Spanish cinema to make their ranges.
CAPE FEAR (REMAKE 1991)
Remake of Jack Lee Thompson’s movie taken out in 1961 with Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, nerves in lively modernizes the persecution by confronting Nick Nolte to Robert de Niro. Main change: contrary to Mitchum, among whom the physical power and the lustful look were enough to terrify the spectator, De Niro wear for his Max Cady’s role of the disturbing tattoos. Tattoos which, moreover were not planned in the scenario! It is DeNiro him even who took the initiative to be tattooed, hoping to be so able to make of the body of his character a reflection of his personality. An idea which rained not at all to the director Martin Scorcese.
Nevertheless, in the viewing, and in spite of the excellent performance of de Niro, it is well the tattoos which allow this Max Cady version 1991 to compete in charisma with Mitchum. The greater violence of the movie and the abundance of these tattoos indeed give to the movie a more current identity which legitimizes of her even the existence of the remake.
Christopher Nolan stages the character of Leonard Shelby, a man achieves of a shape of rare amnesia and which pursues relentlessly the murderer of his wife. Not to lose sight his objective in spite of the disease, he covered his body of tattoos and accumulates the notes which redraw the advance of its investigation).
Memento begins in a way what will make later Prison Break. The utilitarian character of the tattoo also serves to create a frame, that of a controlled madness, and serves as satellite parabola at the idea of a body witness of a whole life, which records everything, which never failed.
In Millennium, the adaptation by Niels Arden Oplev of the novel of Stieg Larsson, Liseth Salander, an exceptionally intelligent marginal, was tattooed a gigantic crow and slightly cut himself in the back. But the tattoo intervenes in many places, serving in particular the story when Lisbeth turns it against the judicial controller who rapes her repeatedly, registering on the stomach: ” I am a sadistic pig, a pervert and a rapist ” to get rid of him.
Indelible, the tattoo forgets nothing, records everything. This eternal dimension, on the scale of a human, shady life and fascinates, casts a difficult veil on the Scandinavian intrigue where, behind the civilized manners, the violence reigns as everywhere.