Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category
Just back from watching ‘Taxi Driver’ for the first time in years, on the big screen at the National Film Theatre, London. The latest sortie in an on-going campaign to expose the Enfants Terribles to the best of 70s cinema – from ‘The Godfather’ via ‘Serpico’ to ‘Chinatown’. And this the day after bumping into Martin Scorsese on the mean streets of London.
1. The Beginning
As the shark-monster wing of the yellow New York cab emerges from the cloud of steam to the epic music of Bernard Herrmann (to whom Scorsese’s 1976 masterpiece is dedicated) we know this vehicle is more than a jaundiced automobile – it will take us from here (a neon-lit metropolis littered with sin and evil goings-on) to there (a patient study in alienation and trying to do right but failing in an oh so human way) for a few dollars but we’ll leave the slick pavement on the journey and transcend to higher places (including a climactic moment in which we float over the ultimately murderous outcome across the ceiling of the blood-spattered room in a bold overhead shot). This film is blood red like the Technicolor crimson lipstick in ‘Black Narcissus’ which Scorsese so admires, like Powell & Pressburger’s ‘Red Shoes’, like the blood of Christ and the neon in the city night.
2. The Acting
DeNiro, the year after his triumph in ‘The Godfather II’, brilliantly conveys the building total exhaustion of a man who can’t sleep despite 12 hour overnight shifts in the cab. His eyes gradually darken as does his outlook. Returned from Vietnam, wounded in body and mind – all shown and not told (scars on his back, his named combat uniform, Nam references in a political speech) – Travis Bickle tries desperately to get back in touch with the world but his 26-year old head just isn’t there. He reaches out to presidential campaigner Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) but can’t remember why taking her out to a porn movie on a date might not be right. He tries to engage the kiosk girl in a porno cinema to no avail, foreshadowing the failed date as well as spotlighting a painful innocence. DeNiro’s performance is a patient portrait of isolation and aloneness. When we first see him in the brilliant revelation of his radical Mohican haircut in a tilt up from his hands opening a bottle of pills, up his combat fatigues, past his We Are The People badge, to reveal his final descent to animalistic warrior basics, he is standing alone at the edge of a crowd.
3. The Writing
Paul Schrader’s script is full of classic lines, as epic and resonant as Herrmann’s score. The biblical passage near the front about washing all the filth off the city streets – Manhattan as Nineveh (which has an added dimension in that Nineveh is now Mosul and Mosul is now being cleansed of IS animalistic psycho-warriors) – is masterful.
May 10th. Thank God for the rain which has helped wash away the garbage and trash off the sidewalks. I’m workin’ long hours now, six in the afternoon to six in the morning. Sometimes even eight in the morning, six days a week. Sometimes seven days a week. It’s a long hustle but it keeps me real busy. I can take in three, three fifty a week. Sometimes even more when I do it off the meter. All the animals come out at night – whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets. I go all over. I take people to the Bronx, Brooklyn, I take ’em to Harlem. I don’t care. Don’t make no difference to me. It does to some. Some won’t even take spooks. Don’t make no difference to me.
4. The Ending
The romantic shot towards the end of Betsy, framed in the taxi rearview mirror, surrounded by soft-focus glittering city lights, is literally a rear view, a coma fantasy drawn from a more promising time. The sounds of the hospital life-support machines subtly playing in the background (at least that’s how I read it). The sound design is fabulous throughout, many grim scenes of guns and prostitution underlaid with the shouts and play of children in the city streets. The Betsy in rearview mirror shot was referenced by John Mackenzie in the ending of ‘The Long Good Friday’ four years after this movie – in that case a young Pierce Brosnan fixing a resigned Harold/Bob Hoskins in the reflection. There Harold Shand is being driven off to his death. In the last moments of ‘Taxi Driver’ it is a comatose Travis Bickle who pulls away in his taxi from his dream of love and connection (in the fantasised form of Betsy) and drives off on his own to his own death and fade to black, leaving us with a powerful sense of wasted human potential, the urge to do right, to help, to save, to connect, to reach out, which somehow goes wrong…
I got some good ideas in my head after the inspiration of watching such a flawless film. It has just been re-released in the UK to mark its 40th anniversary.
…because you can bump into Martin Scorsese (and Tom Ford) totally by accident on your way home from work…
Tom Hardy as Oliver Reed
Emma Stone plays Lindsay Lohan
Amy Adams plays Nicole Kidman
Updated 1.1.17 & 7.1.17 – put to bed 10.1.17
Manchester by the Sea
The Nice Guys
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Ben Affleck – The Accountant
Tom Hanks – Sully
Shia LaBeouf – American Honey
Chris Pine – Hell or High Water
Brad Pitt – Allied
Ryan Gosling – The Nice Guys
Sasha Lane – American Honey
Rebecca Hall – Christine
Marion Cotillard – Allied
Dakota Fanning – American Pastoral
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Amy Adams – Arrival
Jack Reynor – Sing Street
Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals
Tom Wilkinson – Denial
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
Hayley Squires – I, Daniel Blake
Jennifer Connelly – American Pastoral
Riley Keough – American Honey
Margot Robbie – Suicide Squad
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Ewan McGregor – American Pastoral
John Carney – Sing Street
Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals
Woody Allen – Cafe Society
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
John Carney – Sing Street
Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals
Eric Heisserer – Arrival
Joe Walker – Arrival
Jennifer Lame – Manchester by the Sea
Vittorio Storaro – Cafe Society
Rodrigo Prieto – Silence
In Tiburon – Van Morrison
Blackstar – David Bowie
Keep Me Singing – Van Morrison
Imagining Ireland – Friday 29 April 2016 at Festival Hall
Bruce Springsteen – Wembley stadium
Fela Kuti tribute – Bukky Leo & Black Egypt (Jazz Cafe)
Carole King – Tapestry (Hyde Park)
Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park)
Things I Know to be True – Andrew Bovell (Lyric, Hammersmith)
How the Other Half Loves – Alan Aykborn (Haymarket)
You Say You Want a Revolution? (V&A)
Georgia O’Keeffe (Tate Modern)
opening day of the Design Museum, Kensington
Russell-Cotes gallery, Bournemouth
Graves gallery, Sheffield
Neue Pinakothek, Munich
The Sellout – Paul Beatty
Judas – Amos Oz
Read This Year:
All Fall Down – James Leo Herlihy
The Night Manager
Long Lost Family
Ireland beating New Zealand at rugby in Chicago
Jack Laugher and Chris Mears winning diving gold at Rio Olympics
Commemorating the Easter Rising at the GPO in Dublin (100 years to the minute after, right on the spot)
David Bowie trip to Berlin with Noah
Just back from the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York where I had my first official Sell Out as far as I can recall.
I was doing a Masterclass on factual/unscripted short form video. In the Green Room after I met Dr Melanie Williams of UEA where she is Head of Film, Television and Media Studies. She specialises in post-war cinema and has written a monograph on David Lean (very appropriate in that I’m writing this in BAFTA which Lean founded and which Aesthetica feeds into via the Short Film category in the Film Awards). As we chatted the subject of Christine Keeler’s 60s movie came up – see Chairman of the Board below. Well it turns out one of her colleagues at the University of East Anglia has a particular interest in ‘The Keeler Affair’ movie (1963) and in fact (contrary to what I had read) it was made but was never granted a BBFC certificate in the UK, so it only played abroad. Lewis Morley, the photographer who photographed Keeler in That Chair, refers slightly erroneously to: “an intended film which never saw the light of day”.
It also seems to have another title, ‘The Christine Keeler Story‘, and it turns out that Keeler doesn’t exclusively play herself despite posing for the publicity photos – Yvonne Buckingham plays her although Keeler is also listed as “Herself”. Same for Mandy-Rice Davies who both plays herself and is played by Alicia Brandet. I’ve yet to find out how Buckingham & Keeler and Brandet & Rice Davies squared that circle though there are some clues in the clip I found below.
In the synopsis Keeler is referred to as a “teenage prostitute” which seems both harsh and not entirely accurate. I like the term “good-time girl” which is often used to hedge bets in this type of context.
And here’s the bit I found. Quite intriguing. A disco ball in the courtroom… like it.
I went from BAFTA in Piccadilly round the corner to the May Fair Hotel for a BAFTA Film Awards screening of ‘American Pastoral’ with leading man and director Ewan McGregor in attendance. It is a striking and original film, directed with amazing aplomb for a first movie (this is McGregor’s directorial debut). It is a thoughtful interpretation of Philip Roth’s novel, not spoonfeeding the audience and concluding with an uncompromisingly enigmatic end. McGregor spoke with great articulacy and clarity about his method as an actor-director. What came across strongly is that this is an actors’ film – the rehearsal and shooting process, as well as the framing and camera movement, were all focused on enabling the actors to do their thing in an imaginative and fresh way.
So far the best of the BAFTA fare. Also very striking is the disturbing poster – the best I’ve seen in a long while – which takes the all-American idealism of Wyeth and Hopper (the first half of the film derives its colour palette from Hopper), takes the all-American idealism of Wyeth and Hopper – and shakes it the fuck up, torching the Dream.
Tomorrow sees the UK release of Woody Allen’s latest movie, Café Society, starring Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Holy Rollers, Batman v Superman), Kristen Stewart (Twilight, On The Road) and Steve Carell (The Big Short, Foxcatcher). Here are 4 reasons why it is not to be missed…
1. Vittorio Storaro’s coffee-coloured cinematography
Now into his late 70s, Storaro is the man who photographed Apocalypse Now, The Last Emperor and Bulworth (the first and last of these being among my very favourite films). In this movie he paints 30s Hollywood and New York in a palette of yellows and browns which is as delicious as a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain with a dash of cream, making it the most beautiful looking film you’re likely to see this year. He is already working on Woody Allen’s next.
Rose: Too bad Jews don’t have an after-life – they’d get a lot more customers.
2. Woody Allen’s masterful writing
Phil: Two time Academy Award winner.
Bobby: Wow, congratulations.
Hollywood Writer: Thank you. You’ve never heard of me, I’m a writer.
Having written nearly 80 films, Woody has gotten pretty darn good at it. Café Society has absolute economy – you see what you need to see, you hear what you need to hear, you linger when you’d like to linger, you catch fleeting words and moments that delight. You get the laughs, you get the philosophy, your heart-strings get tugged, all leading to a bitter-sweet moment that doesn’t even need any words.
3. Santo Loquasto’s Production Design
Woody’s Production Designer since 1987’s Radio Days, Loquasto delivers again – a golden LA at the height of the studio years contrasts with a darkened NYC of clubs, cramped apartments and alleyways. The film opens on a luxurious poolside party beside a bright white Deco mansion – Hockney meets Gatsby – and sets the tone: this is a world to which we’re going to enjoy every minute of our visit.
Party Guest: [to Bobby] Unrequited love kills more people a year than tuberculosis.
4. Unique Story-telling
No-one in the movies tells a story quite like Woody Allen in his elder statesman years. It’s thoroughly American. Profoundly Jewish. Shot through with European. Café Society has the voice-over of the early faux-documentary films (e.g. Take the Money and Run), performed by the ageing voice of the writer-director, rich and literary but still restrained and judicious. It has that distinctive Allen thing of having a young Woody avatar – there’s an aspect of Eisenberg’s performance which is reproducing Woody’s screen persona – much like Owen Wilson’s excellent performance in that other fabulous late bloom that was Midnight in Paris – yet he transcends it to produce a poignant and memorable lead character living a poignant and terrible love.
Narrator: Life is a comedy written by a sadistic comedy writer.
Emilio Estevez / Andrew Clark
He followed up with the Brat Pack vehicle St Elmo’s Fire. Then some Hollywood fodder like Young Guns and Stake-out in the late 80s. And fades. Two momentary re-emergences: in 2006 when he wrote and directed the RFK movie Bobby and then again when he directed his dad in the low key The Way in 2010. The Breakfast Club was his finest moment. In latter years he hooked up with Macedonian model Sonja Magdevski and they grew pinot noir grapes together in their very own Malibu vineyard.
Anthony Michael Hall / Brian Johnson
Follows up with another (inferior) John Hughes – Weird Science. Then it’s death by TV, with just occasional small movie re-appearances such as The Dark Knight and Foxcatcher. He never married.
Judd Nelson / John Bender
The same Brat Pack move – St Elmo’s Fire. Transformers in 1986. Then a descent into TV movie hell and Stuff You’ve Never Heard Of. It was his finest moment too, untranscendable.
Molly Ringwald / Claire Standish
A worthy John Hughes follow-up in Pretty in Pink. Then mostly TV mush. In 2013 she published a young-adult novel, When It Happens to You, and released a jazz record, Except Sometimes, on which the final track is a cover of Don’t You (Forget About Me), the Simple Minds’ theme tune for TBC. She’s had 3 children.
Ally Sheedy / Allison Reynolds
Ditto regarding St Elmo’s Fire. Then John Badham’s Short Circuit. Then movies you’ve never heard of and some telly. High Art in 1998 was by all accounts a notable exception. In the 1990s she was treated for sleeping pill addiction. She moved home to New York and teaches high school kids acting stuff.
It was all their finest moment and the stuff of our hopes and dreams.
I’m starting a movie project later this morning for Channel 4 /All 4 short form so what better way to get in the mood than comparing my votes for the British Academy Awards (BAFTAs) with the actual winners tonight for the American Academy Awards (Oscars). While I’m at it, I’m going to do head-to-head on the (acting) categories which are artificially split into genders – will they combine these one day or do a head-to-head given there’s no physical difference between the sexes in this regard?
AG: The Big Short
AG & Academy: Brie Larson, Room
AG: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Leonardo diCaprio, The Revenant
AG: Adam McKay, The Big Short
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
Best original screenplay
AG: The Hateful Eight
Best original score
AG & Academy: The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
Best adapted screenplay
AG & Academy: The Big Short
Best supporting actress
AG: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Best supporting actor
AG & Academy: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Best costume design
AG: Carol – Sandy Powell
Mad Max Fury Road – Jenny Beavan
Best animated film
AG & Academy: Inside Out
AG & Academy: Amy
AG & Academy: The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki
Best make-up and hair
AG: Carol [not nominated]
Mad Max: Fury Road
Best visual effects
AG & Academy: Ex Machina
Best sound editing
AG & Academy: Mad Max: Fury Road
Best sound mixing
AG & Academy: Mad Max: Fury Road
AG: The Big Short – Hank Corwin [he was robbed!]
Mad Max Fury Road – Margeret Sixel
BEST ACTOR/ACTRESS: Brie Larson, Room
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/ACTRESS: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Tying some Oscar loose ends including why I don’t reckon The Revenant
To round off on this special day – being 29th of February, leap year day – I’d like to celebrate the considerable success of the UK film industry. I heard we had nominations in 21 of 24 categories (I haven’t counted them up to check). We had winners in 6:
- Best supporting actor: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies – in a league of his own
- Best visual effects: Ex Machina – an amazing follow-up to Gravity’s success
- Best documentary: Amy – masterfully realised by Asif Kapadia, fellow East Finchley resident
- Best song: Sam Smith – raw youth
- Best short: Stutterer – Anglo-Irish triumph
- Best costume: Mad Max Fury Road