Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category

Coincidence No. 541 – J’accuse

Raquel Welch & Ringo Starr in ‘The Magic Christian’ (1969)

When I look at Facebook this morning the first thing I see is a post from the past (2015) on its anniversary. It was a reminder that today’s the day (13th January in 1898) that Émile Zola accused the French government/establishment of anti-semitism in the letter J’Accuse. Yesterday was the day (in 2015) the French government sent armed troops in to guard Jewish schools. I also published a second post on the subject that same day 5 years ago (the Charlie Hebdo shooting had been the previous week on 7th January 2015): Today’s the day (in 1898) Émile Zola published the letter J’Accuse in a French newspaper. He was convicted of libel. Then took refuge in London. #jesuischarlie

I am watching the 1969 British film The Magic Christian this evening. It contains a Who’s Who of the 60s of swinging London including Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Spike Milligan, Christopher Lee, Roman Polanski and Raquel Welch. Raquel plays a bikinied Amazon (echoes of her fur bikini in One Million Years BC, 1966) in a scene parodying the slave galley scene in Spartacus). Among the first words out of her mouth are “J’accuse!”.

Priestess of the Whip (Raquel Welch):

In, out.
[Groaning]

In, out!
[Groaning continues]

In, out. In…

During my reign as Priestess of the Whip, I’ve never seen such unmitigated sloth.

Passenger: My god! What’s going on here?

Priestess of the Whip:

J’accuse!

How dare this intrusion? Who are these people?

Youngman Grand (Ringo Starr): Oh, these are me mates.

Priestess of the Whip: Out! Out!

[Groans]

Passenger: Oh, I say! Do that again.

Priestess of the Whip: Out! Out! Out of my galley!

I was watching the film because tomorrow night Entertainment Attorney and Executive Producer Vinca Jarrett, who I met last year in Duluth, Minnesota when I was doing a speech on diversity in TV entitled Not The Usual Suspects, is putting on an online film discussion group which I’m really looking forward to. These kinds of online communal activity, like Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties, at their best are one of the silver linings of Covid Lockdown, generating a genuine sense of shared experience and contact. 

While I was at it I made an edit to the Magic Christian entry on Wikipedia, noting the fleeting appearance of John & Yoko in the movie. My first ever article published on Wikipedia was the one on User-Generated Content. And here we are some two decades later with WordPress and its over-refined self-publishing service with these difficult to manipulate Blocks and generally over-boiled interface. In two days’ time it is the 20th anniversary of Wikipedia – launched 15th January 2001. The scale, accuracy and relative lack of conflict around this pooling of the world’s knowledge online is a testimony to what people can do together for no money. In contrast to the theme explored by The Magic Christian, which is that everyone has their price.

Front page of the newspaper ‘L’Aurore’ Jeudi 13 Janvier 1898

What I learnt from Michael Apted

Director Michael Apted on the set of ‘Enough’ (2002) [ (c) Columbia. – courtesy of the Everett Collection]

It was sad to hear of the passing of Michael Apted on Saturday. His ‘Up’ series is one of the great achievements of documentary film and could never be replicated in the industry and the world as it is now. This is what I learnt from him when we crossed paths in Rome two years ago.

Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart (1992) with Sam Shepard & Val Kilmer

Best of 2020

The boldest film of the year – Lovers Rock

Film:

Lovers Rock

Babyteeth

Nomadland

The White Tiger

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Another Round

Queen & Slim

Le Corbeau, Vertigo

Last year: Joker, Mid90s

Foreign-Language Film:

The White Tiger

Another Round

Les Miserables (2019)

Last year: Parasite.

Documentary:

Crip Camp

Dick Johnson is Dead

Last year: Rolling Thunder Review

Male Lead:

Anthony Hopkins – The Father

Adarsh Gourav – The White Tiger

Tom Hanks – News of the World

Ralph Fiennes – The Dig

Mads Mikkelsen – Another Round

Last year: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Female Lead:

Frances McDormand – Nomadland

Michelle Pfeiffer – French Exit

Eliza Scanlen – Babyteeth

Kate Winslet – Ammonite

Jodie Turner-Smith – Queen & Slim

Last year: Elizabeth Debicki (Virginia, Vita & Virginia)

Male Support:

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Mauritanian
Mark Rylance – The Trial of the Chicago 7

Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7

Last year: Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin in Joker

Female Support:

Helena Zengel – News of the World

Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy

Saoirse Ronan – Ammonite

Olivia Coleman – The Father

Last year: Kaitlyn Dever as Amy in Booksmart

Director:

Steve McQueen – Lovers Rock

Shannon Murphy – Babyteeth

Thomas Vinterberg – Another Round

Ramin Bahrani – The White Tiger

Last year: Todd Phillips (Joker), Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Writer:

Ramin Bahrani – The White Tiger

News of the World – Paul Greengrass & Luke Davies
The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Aaron Sorkin (though I don’t generally like him as a writer, too many words)

Rita Kalnejais – Babyteeth

Last year: Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Editing:

?

Last year: ?

Cinematography:

Andrew Commis – Babyteeth

Paolo Carnera – The White Tiger

Dariusz Wolski – News of the World

Hoyte van Hoytema – Tenet

Last year: Roger Deakins – 1917

Film Music:

Lovers Rock

Last year: Rolling Thunder Review

Single/Song:

Long Tailed Winter Bird – Paul McCartney

Reborn a Queen – Naughty Alice

Kunta Kinte Dub – The Revolutionaries

Last year: Lately – Celeste

Album:

McCartney III – Paul McCartney

Letter to You – Bruce Springsteen

Last year: Ghosteen – Nick Cave

Gig:

Sarah Jane Morris – Ronnie Scott’s

ROE – The Waiting Room

A Bowie Celebration – Empire, Shepherd’s Bush

Last year: Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets (Roundhouse)

Play:

0

Last year: A Taste of Honey (Trafalgar Studios)

Art Exhibition:

London Calling (Museum of London) – the only one I got to this year 😦

A Surge of Power by Marc Quinn going up on the base of the deposed Colston statue, Bristol

Boy & Bear – Brandon Hill, Bristol (thanks to Dylan on my birthday)

Last year: Van Gogh in Britain (Tate B)

Book:

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free – Andrew Miller

The Plague – Albert Camus

Summer – Ali Smith

Last year: A Woman of No Importance – Sonia Purnell; The Quiet American

TV:

Lovers Rock (BBC)

The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

The Crown – S4 (Amazon)

The Romantics and Us (BBC2)

The Bridge S1

Last year: After Life (Netflix)

Podcast:

Heavyweight

Adam Buxton

The Happiness Lab

Last Year: 13 Minutes to the Moon

Sport:

Spurs 2 – Arsenal 1 (11.7.20)

Dance:

Mam (Sadlers Wells)

Last Year: The Red Shoes (Sadlers Wells)

Event:

Statue of Edward Colston being chucked in Bristol harbour

The Winter Solstice at Newgrange, Ireland

Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties

Dearly departed:

  • Andy Taylor (with whom I worked at Little Dot and Channel 4)
  • Albert Uderzo
  • Jimmy Cobb
  • Alan Parker
  • Terry Jones
  • Carl Reiner
  • Kirk Douglas
  • Sean Connery
  • John Hume
  • Ruth Bader Ginsberg
  • Terence Conran
  • JJ Williams
  • Nobby Stiles
  • Nicholas Parsons
  • Tim Brooke Taylor


The only film I saw in the cinema after Lockdown

Best of 2019 and links to earlier Bests Of

Looking down on Stars of Brighton by the gutter

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

― Oscar Wilde, ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’

 

“…he happened to have a first-class ticket for Worthing in his pocket at the time. Worthing is a place in Sussex. It is a seaside resort.”

― Oscar Wilde, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’

East of Worthing, east of Hove, at the eastern end of Brighton, just below Kemptown, sits Brighton Marina (site of ArkAngel Productions’ regional office). It was built from 1971 to 1978 and opened in 1979 with the age of Thatcherism. Rumour had it that it was some kind of scam to secure European (EEC) money.  In 1985 it was taken over by Brent Walker, nicknamed ‘Bent Walker’, a property and leisure business run by the former boxer and Soho gangster George Walker. Earlier in his career he was jailed for stealing nylon stockings in Victoria Docks, London.  

Among the shops Walker established in the Marina is a rather incongruous Walk of Fame, a set of stars built into the pavement Hollywood-style. I’ve walked over them often over the years, frequently asking myself the question what have they got to do with Brighton? Like Kevin Rowland of Dexy’s Midnight Runners – he’s a Brummy as far as I know (Wolverhampton?), of Irish descent (Co. Mayo) and he has lived in London a fair bit, but what’s Brighton got to do with him?

Young soul rebel in 1980 (front left)

Whilst tramping over them during the summer I decided to use the stars as the basis of an occasional series on Simple Pleasures Part 4, of which this is the introduction.

So Brighton Marina’s Walk of Fame is the first such one in the UK. It was the brainchild of David Courtney, a Brighton-born songwriter/music producer who had an internationally successful partnership with Leo Sayer in the 70s which brought him to L.A., spiritual home of Walks of Fame. That prompted him to bring the concept back to his home town and to the Marina his uncle, Henry Cohen, helped conceive and realise.

So the first star in this series, given the business of ArkAngel Productions, will be Ray Brooks.

Ray Brooks is the voice of Mr Benn, the sober suited businessman from Festive Road who made regular visits on the sly to a certain dressing up shop. There The Shopkeeper offered him outfits to try on and when he went into the changing room there his magical adventures began. From knight in armour to cowboy, he lived a more colourful, adventurous life for a brief while until the Shopkeeper fetched him back to the changing room. The character was conceived by David McKee originally for children’s books but became the star of a much-loved BBC animated series in 1971/72 (the year the Marina was born).

I worked with Ray Brooks only once – he did the voice-over for a film I directed for Barnardos about whistleblowing, ‘Sounding the Alarm‘. 

His Brighton connection is simple: he was born there just before the Second World War. His career as an actor started in ‘Coronation Street’ in the early 60s. A breakthrough came in 1965 when he joined Michael Crawford and Rita Tushingham in Richard Lester’s comedy ‘The Knack …and how to get it’ which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes that year. 

Interlude: Coincidence No. 266

That’s the second time ‘The Knack’ has come up in the last couple of days. Someone in my circle posted a picture of the LP sleeve of the soundtrack by John Barry because they’d dusted it off and were giving it a Lockdown2 listen.

The following year Ray appeared in the landmark ‘Cathy Come Home’. Throughout the 60s he got parts in cult classics from ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Danger Man’ through to ‘Dr Who’. 

He was the voice of the storyteller in ‘Jackanory’ throughout the 70s. At the turn of the millennium he starred in ‘Two Thousand Acres of Sky’ with Paul Kaye and did a spell in ‘Eastenders’ in the mid-noughties. 

He lives in London but still goes to Brighton to write. He clearly remains attached to the place as his final blog post (17th March 2019) ends with a reference to it as the place he’d go to get rid of his ego:

But what could I expect.? The old ego was popping up again. I’ll put it into a box and chuck [it] off the Brighton Pier I’m sure David Attenborough  wouldn’t complain ‘cos fish with egos wouldn’t eat plastic bags any more they’d be too full of themselves.

Jane Birkin (uncredited) & Ray Brooks in ‘The Knack …and How To Get It ‘ (1965)

Jane Birkin was married to John Barry, composer on ‘The Knack …and How To Get It ‘ before moving on to hook up with Serge Gainsbourg at the end of the decade. This is a CD cover my old friend Marcelino Truong drew and designed for Gainsbourg. Marcelino has stayed at ArkAngel South-East in Brighton Marina.

Gainsbourg ‎– Mon Légionnaire (1988) by Marcelino Truong

Coincidence No. 202 – Kane

I finish watching ‘Citizen Kane’ for the first time in years, showing Enfant Terrible No. 1. I notice how the final scene in Xanadu with all his art and possessions boxed up must have inspired the final warehouse scene in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. 

Two minutes after the film finishes a message comes in to me from an old school friend commenting on the stuff I’ve been finding today as I sort out the attic and sharing with our Whatsapp group of schoolmates:

Ad – I’m thinking of that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Ark gets stored in a vast warehouse. Based on what’s emerging recently, I’m assuming your attic is something like that.

Final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark
Final scene of Citizen Kane

39 films for Jake

The Big Chill
  1. The Big Chill
  2. Diner
  3. Apocalypse Now
  4. The Unbelievable Truth
  5. La Haine
  6. In the Name of the Father
  7. Platoon
  8. The Conversation
  9. I know where I’m going
  10. MASH
  11. A bout de souffle
  12. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
  13. The Third Man
  14. Bulworth
  15. Running on Empty
  16. Chinatown
  17. Chaplin
  18. Vertigo
  19. Harold & Maude
  20. City Lights
  21. Enemy of the State
  22. Cinema Paradiso 
  23. Casablanca
  24. Dr Zhivago
  25. Mississippi Burning
  26. Blow Up
  27. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
  28. Bonnie and Clyde
  29. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
  30. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 
  31. The Great Gatsby (1974)
  32. The Parallax View
  33. Baby it’s you
  34. The Searchers
  35. Easy Rider
  36. Flirting
  37. Smoke
  38. The Hairdresser’s Husband
  39. La Lune Dans Le Caniveau (Moon in the Gutter)

    Bubbling under: Marnie, A Month in the Country, The General, Lethal Weapon, The Maltese Falcon, Betty Blue, The Accountant, 20,000 days on Earth, 2001: A Space Odyssey, All the President’s Men, Romeo & Juliet (1996), The Sting, Johnny English, The Bounty, 24 Hour Party People, The Remains of the Day, Cold War, My Life as a Dog, The Commitments, The Bourne Supremacy, Rolling Thunder Review, Modern Times, The Wild Bunch

 

La Lune Dans Le Caniveau (Moon in the Gutter)

My nephew Jake turned 16 this weekend – he has remarkably good and sophisticated taste in films, so as a bonus birthday gift I put together this list of films I love which I reckon he’ll enjoy too. His favourite film is Inside Llewyn Davis. That one has fond memories for me as I met & chatted with  Oscar Isaac and T Bone Burnett at the screening I attended, the latter being particularly charming, interesting and generous with his time. T Bone’s first experience on the road is captured in last year’s spectacularly brilliant Rolling Thunder Review.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Hitchcock’s Leytonstone

On my East London wanderings today I ended up in Leytonstone where I’d been meaning to go on a Sunday morning Hitchcock guided walk for months but never made it and then Corona kicked in. As I was driving into the High Street where Hitch was born (at No. 517) I spotted a mural of him on a side street and that prompted a small Hitchcock pilgrimage.

I got my very first job in the industry by attending a talk about Hitchcock’s The Birds at uni given by playwright David Rudkin – I met his friend, producer Stephen Mellor, after the talk and managed to get a runner job out of him at his company AKA in Farringdon. Director Alastair Reid was also at the talk – he’d recently completed the debut episode of a new series called Inspector Morse.

The first place I found was the site of the police station where Hitchcock was locked in a cell for a few hours at the behest of his father, William. Here’s how Hitch told the story of this formative event to François Truffaut:

“I must have been about four or five years old when my father sent me to the Police Station with a note. The Chief of Police read it and locked me in a cell for five or ten minutes, saying, ‘This is what we do to naughty boys.’ … I haven’t the faintest idea why I was punished. As a matter of fact, my father used to call me his ‘little lamb without a spot,’ so I truly cannot imagine what I did …” 

The lifelong impact of the trauma was an unwavering suspicion and fear of the police and judicial authorities reflected in his movies.

site of the Harrow Road police station (616-618 High Road)

Here’s a model of what the cop shop looked like when Hitch was a lad, made by illustrator and model-maker Sebastian Harding

Next I went in search of Hitchcock’s birthplace above his father’s greengrocery and poultry shop W. Hitchcock at 517 High Street. In 1899 when Alfred was born it looked something like this

one of the Alfred Hitchcock mosaics at Leytonstone Station

It was demolished in the 60s and the site is now occupied by a petrol station. Let’s just call it short-sighted.

The plaque is on the wall just to the left of the skip
Presumably he hasn’t got an English Heritage Blue Plaque here because the twats knocked down the actual building

While he has no national plaque here one was put up in in 1999 on the centenary of his birth by English Heritage at 153 Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW5 0TQ in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea near his adult home. (I suspect he would have preferred Leytonstone).

In the vicinity of his birthplace there were various nods to Leytonstone’s finest son. 

Birds embedded in the pavement (though they don’t look much like gulls – the 3rd one up looks like one of the notorious London parakeets)
More un-gull-like birds in a mural beside his birthplace
complete with ‘lead pipe’ fit for murder in the billiard room
pub on the High Street

When I got home from the outing I stumbled across Vertigo on Netflix and hit play. It brought back memories of my last Hitchcock pilgrimage which was in San Francisco in August 2015.

Where Madelaine (Kim Novak) jumps into San Francisco Bay in Vertigo
Vertigo: Madeleine jumps
Coit Tower – how Madeleine finds her way back to Scottie’s apartment
Paramount Studios in Hollywood – from the same 2015 Highway 1 revisited road trip

Vertigo trivia: The opening Paramount logo is in black and white while the rest of the film, including the closing Paramount logo, is in Technicolor.

The original press book (or “showmanship manual”) for the film
A long way from the greengrocery in Leytonstone
.
Hitch’s cameo in Vertigo

(Apparently this is my 1000th post on Simple Pleasures part 4 – in August 2012 Vertigo was named the best film of all time in the BFI’s once-a-decade The 100 Greatest Films of All Time poll making it more than worthy to be the subject of this 1000th post)

Alan Parker and the curse count

the commitments alan parker movie film

The Commitments (1991)

I met London-born director Alan Parker once – it was at the Dorchester hotel in Park Lane at some film-related event, around 2004. As we were walking out I took the opportunity to tell him a story about my younger son and The Commitments

Like many parents I tended to show my children movies too young, forgetting the detail of the content. One afternoon I was sitting watching The Commitments with the pair of them, connecting them to the Irish half of their identity. Enfant Terrible No. 2 disappeared off mid-movie for a few minutes to run upstairs and get the stopwatch his Auntie Bernadette had recently bought him. He then reinstalled himself on the sofa and carried on watching, shiny new present in hand. After a while he turned to me (he’s about five at the time) and said: “Dad, do you realise it’s 3 minutes, 48 seconds since the last ‘Fuck’?” like that was some kind of record in linguistic restraint.

I find The Commitments a pretty flawless film, the music performed with brilliant energy, the casting of Andrew Strong as Deco key to the success of the movie.

birdy movie alan parker 1984

Birdy (1984) – Nicolas Cage & Matthew Modine

Whilst I got as excited as the next kid about Bugsy Malone and the splurge guns, it was Birdy, which came out as I started uni, which made a real mark on my growing up. Matthew Modine’s performance is very moving, perfectly supported by a young Nicholas Cage.

Mississippi Burning movie film alan parker 1988

Mississippi Burning (1988) Willem Dafoe & Gene Hackman

Mississippi Burning remains one of my favourite Alan Parker movies. Although it’s probably looked down on these days for having largely white saviours, it’s as cinematic and compelling as you could wish. It would make a great double bill with Ava DuVernay’s  Selma. I’ll be watching it as a single bill this evening in memory and celebration of Alan Parker who went to the Big Studio in the sky yesterday. For me what he stood for was the ability to make entertaining and emotionally satisfying films which were accessible/mainstream and yet imaginative and substantial.

 

High Definition: what’s the point of Cinema?

One of the best definitions of Cinema:

A machine that generates Empathy

Roger Ebert, film critic

dziga Vertov man with a movie camera

Machine with great significance (Dziga Vertov, Man with a Movie Camera)

Woody guthrie this machine kills fascists guitar

Machine with great power (Woody Guthrie)

Here’s the full context of the quote: “We are all born with a certain package. We are who we are. Where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We are kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people, find out what makes them tick, what they care about. For me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. If it’s a great movie, it lets you understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class, a different nationality, a different profession, different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us. And that, to me, is the most noble thing that good movies can do and it’s a reason to encourage them and to support them and to go to them.”

The Casting Game

vita virginia gemma arterton

Gemma Arterton (Vita & Virginia – Vita Sackville-West)

AS

Audrey Tautou (Amélie)

Audrey Tautou (Amélie)

%d bloggers like this: