Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Jorge in Sao Paulo, Martin in Derry & Colin, and Donal.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

All projection rooms should be like this:

From of course, Minnelli's torrid drama TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN, 1962. 
(See Mnnelli label...) Yes, that's Kirk Douglas, Claire Trevor, Daliah Lavi, George Hamilton.

All About Eve cast photo !

How come I never saw this shot before ? Pity Thelma was not included ....

Garbo, again

The glamour of the 1930s for me means those two exotic European imports to Hollywood, as the talkies got underway - Garbo and Dietrich. A large part of their mystique of course is not just their looks but those fascinating voices.. Our Sky Arts channel repeated a Garbo programme, so one had to watch again - a whole hour of Garbo clips, they focus though on those best known ones: CAMILLE, QUEEN CHRISTINA, ANNA KARENINA, NINOTCHKA - I love them too, particularly CHRISTINA and NINOTCHKA, but they ignored THE PAINTED VEIL, from 1934, 
which I loved a year ago, as per my post here, see Garbo label, and I now think everything about MATA HARI in 1931 is utterly fantastic: the art design, her odd but mesmerising dance with the giant statue, Ramon Novarro, her stunning outfits, and that ending as she faces the execution squad ..... its amazing the number of different posters in various colours that are still around.  Jeanne Moreau's MATA HARI AGENT H21 in 1964 though very different is rather dull by comparison! 
I also actually love her last film TWO FACED WOMAN from 1942, where she is ski-ing and being terribily funny, and she is totally glamorous doing that rhumba!  Here is that interesting shot of her, looking awkward and ungainly at the swimming pool. with George Cukor. 
TWO FACED WOMAN shows how she could have developed and looked as the 1940s progressed - just as Marilyn's uncompleted SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE fragments show how that now slimline Marilyn could have dazzled as the '60s unfolded .... At least Greta lived out her life as she wanted .... those late '40s photos by Cecil Beaton show she was still a stunning woman then. More on Greta, and that usually overlooked PAINTED VEIL at label. Even the very name 'Garbo' summons up unfathomable mystery and unattainable glamour ... 

Right: a laserdisc (remember those?) of MATA HARI & THE PAINTED VEIL

Left: Moreau as Mata:
Soon: Another look at Marlene's 1932 BLONDE VENUS and THE SCARLET EMPRESS, 1934. More 1930s delirium ! 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Italian choices: Marcello & Jacques, Anna & Giulietta

CRONACA FAMILIARE (FAMILY DIARY), 1962. Finally, a look at Valerio Zurlini’s absorbing family drama with brilliant performances from Marcello Mastroianni and Jacques Perrin. Post-war Italy looks marvellous, as lensed by Giussepe Rottuno, and produced by Geoffredo Lombardo. Sylvie scores too as the grand-mother. It is all as marvellous as De Sica’s GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINI (Italian label). Zurlini’s film is a melancholy meditation on two very different brothers, poor tubucular writer Enrico (Mastroianni) and the also ailing Lorenzo – Perrin is as effective here as he was in Zurlini’s GIRL WITH A SUITCASE or Bolognini’s LA CORRUZIONE, and of course this was Mastroianni’s great era too.. 
The downbeat story is totally affecting and leaves one in an emotional state. Did I say it looks marvellous? Its a perfectly restored print.
HELL IN THE CITY, 1959  (aka CAGED, Nella Citta L’Inferno) . Marvellous widescreen black and white drama with lots of comic moments from Renato Castellani which is a showcase for two of Italy’s greatest actresses Anna Magnani and Giulietta Masina. We are in a Roman prison, run by nuns. Masina is Lina, the timid newcomer, a variation on Masina’s CABIRIA – Lina is another lovelorn waif, seemingly a bit simple, who has been sent to prison for unknowingly aiding a robbery – a maid for a rich family, she was fooled by a man (Alberti Sordi doing a cameo) who got her to allow him into the house and then took her to the cinema while his accomplice carried out the robbery. Lina cries a lot and exasperates hardened criminal Egle – Magnani, forever in her black slip, as she dominates the screen. 
The other inmates are a varied bunch and we get involved in some stories. Renato Salvatori plays Piero, whom the nice young girl can see with the aid of a mirror, and there may be a happy ending for them. Lina finally leaves but will she be back? SPOILER AHEAD: Yes she does return and is now a hardened criminal, Egle is horrified to see how she has changed as Lina thanks her for teaching her the tricks of the trade. It is a satisfying conclusion and the two leads play it to the hilt. 

Antonioni, Fellini and Visconti as well as De Sica and Rossellini may have been the Italian great directors (along with Pasolini & Bertolucci and more), but its been fascinating catching up with those early films by Mauro Bolognini (1922-2001),which we like a lot here - LA NOTTE BRAVA, GIOVANI MARITI, CORRUPTION, SENILITA, METELLO, GRAN BOLLITO etc (as reviewed at Italian label). I still have to see Mastroianni & Cardinale in his highly-regarded IL BELL'ANTONIO, 1960, and Belmondo and Cardinale in LA VIACCIA, 1961., 

Another one, not available now, is his equally fascinating sounding FROM A ROMAN BALCONY (LA GIORNATA BALORDA), 1960, from a Moravia novel, with those attractive players Jean Sorel and Lea Massari. The trailer for it is on YouTube though:
Bolognini also did episodes in those Italian compendium films I like: LE BAMBOLE (Four Kinds of Love - the hilarious and sexy Sorel & Lollobrigida episode) and LE FATA (The Queens), Sorel with Raquel Welch. 

Next Italian: Marcello and Romy in FANTASMA D'AMORE, 1981 - finally, a sub-titled print, and the Blu-ray of THE GREAT BEAUTY.  

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Hitchcock on ....

Dressing Eva Marie Saint for NORTH BY NORTHWEST:

"I suggested she be dressed in a basic black suit (with a simple emerald pendant) to intimate her relationship with Mason; in a heavy silk black cocktail dress subtly imprinted with wine red flowers in scenes where she deceives Cary; in a charcoal brown, full-skirted jersey and burnt-orange burlap outfit in the scenes of action.

The intention was that she be dressed brightly while the mood of the scene was subdued - and quietly while the mood was exciting. A simple matter of contrasts. After all, she plays a woman of mystery - and no woman is a mystery unless she keeps people guessing."
From a 1959 interview in  "Films & Filming".

Well, we knew Hitch loved dressing up his leading ladies - Janet Leigh as Marion Crane had to make do with shop clothes a secretary would buy, but Hitch must have had a lot of fun dressing his new discovery Tippi Hedren for THE BIRDS (that famous green suit!) and MARNIE. Below: Eva dressed for the climax of NBNW in that fabulous house created for the film, right by Mount Rushmore! 

Sunday fun: 1 - Ozon double bill ...

A friend is calling this afternoon so we are going to have a French comedy double bill - Francois Ozon's delicious POTICHE from 2010, and his 2002 all-star comedy, 8 WOMEN. I have blogged about them before here (Ozon, Deneuve labels). Deneuve is quietly hilarious as the now rather portly trophy housewife who has to take over the family umbrella factory when her obnoxious husband (Fabrice Lucini, above with Deneuve) antagonises the workers and then has a a stroke ..... Catherine comes to the rescue, re-organises the factory, gets re-acquainted with her former love, Gerard Depardieu, and then has to deal with the treachery of her husband and daughter. But her son Laurent (Jeremie Renier - no, not Jeremy Renner) helps her both at the factory, where he designs new umbrelleas, and then to become elected to local government. It is amusing to see Laurent, below, getting gayer scene by scene as the movie progresses .... 
Catherine too is blissfully funny out jogging in her tracksuit and noting nature all around her. Its a treat, and that 1970s ambience is perfect too. 

8 WOMEN is marvellous too with all those colours, and those actresses - Deneuve, Fanny Ardant, the elderly Danielle Darrieux, Beart, Huppert, Ledoyen, Seigner, in their element. 

The very prolific (and, like Pedro Almodovar, openly gay) Ozon ( right) has come up with some films we like a lot: the very affecting TIME TO LEAVE and UNDER THE SAND, the intriguing THE SWIMMING POOL, and the recent amusing DANS LE MAISON .... (Ozon, French labels). 

Sunday fun: 2 The Mirror Crack'd.

What fun to get up Sunday mornng, and see THE MIRROR CRACK'D on early tv. I just have to include this hilarious scene when Taylor and Novak try to out-bitch each other. For priceless camp its  almost as good as that scene in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS when Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward) and Neely O'Hara (Patty Duke) meet in the powder room .... (Trash label).
THE MIRROR CRACK'D though is the clunkiest of those all-star Christies, always good for a laugh, with the '50s period detail laid on with a trowel - it lacks the wit and fun of EVIL UNDER THE SUN or DEATH ON THE NILE. Liz and Kim seem to be enjoying themselves while Hudson and Curtis seem sadly diminished, and Angela Lansbury is a very odd Miss Marple.  .... (see Christie label).  

Saturday, 30 August 2014

More old movie mags 2: Dirk's & Rock's "romances" !

It is too easy to laugh now and make fun of those 1950s fan magazines - we all know the American ones, but the British ones are fascinating now too, particularly those ones where they had to concoct romances for closeted stars like Dirk Bogarde and Rock Hudson. Dirk and Rock of course both knew everyone, but how to explain they were still bachelors ...? Pity the (un-named) hacks who had to come up with these stories! and the fans who lapped them all up back in 1958, were they so naive then?

It seems Dirk was in love with Jean Simmons all along - who knew! (they made a film, SO LONG AT THE FAIR, in 1950) and was shattered when she went off and married Stewart Granger, so Dirk never got over it, as he posed for moody photographs on his various country estates ...

The Dirk Life Story in Pictures is a delirious 1950s comic strip, there is more of it at Dirk comic strip label ... Click on images to enlarge ...
These writers create imaginary dialogue exchanges between Rock and Phyllis Gates, the woman he married for a year (his agent Henry Willson's secretary), and concocted their own version of what when wrong in their troubled marriage. Phyllis it seems was too extravagant!
Lets quote some of this deathless prose:
"But, unfortunately, harmony did not reign in their mountain-side home for long. Soon the rumours started - Rock and Phyllis were not hitting it off so well. The marriage was cracking.
Hollywood know-alls said the trouble stemmed from Phyllis's extravagance. It was true that she loved to go shopping. And after all, why not, when Rock had so much money?
One night, Rock came home tired and hungry, from an exhuasting day at the studio. He pushed open the door. No Phyllis. He went through the house calling for her and at last he found her in the bedroom, trying on a black chiffon evening dress. 
She turned to him with stars in her eyes. "Look at it Rock" she cried. "Isn't it just the most stunning gown you ever saw?"
Rock raised a hand to his brow. "Wait a minute" he said, "you bought an evening gown last week. You haven't even worn it yet, and now this today".
The stars faded from Phyllis's eyes ... "But honey, don't you understand, soon I shall wear both of them. When we go out in public again". 
"I've told you before", Rock stormed, "I don't want us to start dragging round to nightclubs and premieres".
And so such a comparatively small thing as a new evening dress started off a first-class row.
It sparked off the other major difference between them. Phyllis liked the do the Town occasionally. Rock preferred to stay at home.
Perhaps he liked to have the chance because his film commitments so often took him away from home.
When he went to Europe to make A FAREWELL TO ARMS it was understood that Phyllis would join him. They both looked forward to this immensely for it would mean a second honeymoon.
And then a couple of weeks before Phyllis was due to leave for Italy, Rock received a letter.
"Rock, darling, I've just rented a beautiful house at Malibu Beach for us both. You can swim all day long ...!
Rock was furious. He rushed to the phone.
As soon as he heard her voice, he started to storm. "Phyllis, its me, Rock. Now what do you mean by renting a house without even consulting me?"
Phyllis's voice was cajoling at the other end of the line. "But, honey, its the loveliest house you ever saw. You'll adore it..."
Rock's voice was grim. "I'm not taking any house I haven't seen. Why didn't you consult me? I am the man in this family."
Phyllis's voice rose. "And I'm a grown woman. Why do I have to ask your permission for everything? A house is a woman's business. All I did was -"
Finally, they hung up on each other. Rows at home were bad enough, but rowing with thousands of miles between them - this was disastrous. 
It was also the beginning of the end ......"
There are pages more in in that vein. They certainly deserve an award for artistic licence! 

At least Dirk never went through a sham marriage - he and Rock were both filming in Italy in 1957, and as I have posted here before, they met for a photo op, and no doubt amused themselves discussing the sizes of their respective closets ....

More old movie magazines 1

We got another selection of old 50s and 60s movie magazines - those quality British ones: "Films & Filming" and "Sight & Sound", and a few "Plays & Players". - I had that 1972 one, on American theatre, with Bacall on the cover, and an interview with Tennessee Williams.  I saw that 1980 HAMLET too at the Royal Court, it was a highly praised production at the time, with Jonathan Pryce and Jill Bennett - I must return to that when I get around to all those Hamlets ...
The film ones also have interesting interviews with the likes of Hitchcock, Bergman (Ingmar), Fellini & Antonioni. At least I can scan and preserve them ... I like that cover with Belmondo (THE MAN FROM RIO), and Lee Remick in SANCTUARY, and Coward and Guinness in OUR MAN IN HAVANA, and Julie Christie with gay photographer pal Roland Curram in DARLING. These capture that mid-60s vibe nicely, like those ones with Monica Vitti as MODESTY BLAISE or David Hemmings in BLOW-UP.

Friday, 29 August 2014

For the weekend 1

We still look in at GLEE, its more interesting now that some of the leads are trying to make it in New York. They did some Sondheim songs the other week, and I like this zany version of "Broadway Baby" by the sometimes annoying Rachel (Lea Michele) and the twinkling adorable Blaine (Darren Criss). Teacher Whoopi was not amused though, as she did not specify a duet. Kurt (who had been mugged) did a peculiar version of "I'm Still Here" (Its on YouTube)..... see  GLEE label for a vintage episode. 

For the weekend: 2: Peter, Romy, Audrey

Some nice shots of Peter and Romy during the filming of our cult favourite WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT? in 1965.

Then there's Peter and Audrey in 1966 HOW TO STEAL A MILLION, and then Audrey and Romy among the all-star line up in the '70s Trash Classic (which I really must have another look at one of these days) BLOODLINE ... (with Omar, Irene Papas, James Mason and Ben Gazzara). More on these at the labels ...

For the weekend 3

A blast from the past: 1960s CORONATION STREET, Britain's longest runnng soap (it began in that seminal year 1960), and its still going now with great characters and story lines. Here's veteran battle-axe Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) having a slight argument with the brassy Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix). Its those early '60s in aspic ....

Thursday, 28 August 2014

A French double bill, with Blain & Deneuve ...

LES AMIS, 1971. Can one truly comprehend a talky movie in a foreign language, without sub-titles?. This fascinating oddity by French actor Gerard Blain is only available it seems on YouTube in French (there is also a French only dvd). It is a languid, moody piece which one can enjoy if one gets in the rhythm of it. Is it an undiscovered gay classic or another semi-autographical film by a popular actor?  Blain (1930-2000) was in those early Chabrol films like LE BEAU SERGE and LES COUSINS, and in other films like Hawks’ HATARI!

Gerard Blain
His first film as director, LES AMIS (The Friends) features an attractive young man, who looks rather like Blain himself, and his relationship with an older man. We see Philippe (Philippe March) at the start having his brown shoes polished, which match his yellow socks. Then he looks at clothes in a shop window – this is a young man who appreciates the finer things in life. Then he is in an expensive restaurant with his older friend, a wealthy businessman, who is also happily married. Nicholas (Jean-Claude Dauphin) returns to his country estate, with a present for his wife ….. It seems the two men have a secret relationship which benefits them both. Philippe lives with his busy mother who is always sewing or cleaning, while Nicholas finances their holiday away at the seaside, and leaves him enough money for his horse-riding lessons and hanging out with the local rich kids, when he has to return to the office. 
From what I gather Blain himself was bisexual in his youth and also had an older protector, so maybe this is his roman a clef about that. Philippe is actually heterosexual, and Nicholas does not object or put barriers on his pursuit of an attractive blonde. This relationship is obviously benefiting Philippe, as the older man teaches him and guides him and helps him to get ahead. Some scenes though go on rather too long, like Philippe and the blonde in that car,  then next scene, he is back sharing a hotel double bedroom with Nicholas (there is nothing explicit, it is all very tasteful), and then seemingly making a good impresson on the blonde’s family, until she finds someone else ….

SPOILER AHEAD: Truffaut liked the film and gave it a good review in his THE FILMS IN MY LIFE (I must see if  I still have my copy), and maybe hommaged it in his 1973 LA NUIT AMERICAINE (DAY FOR NIGHT) with what happens to his older man, Jean-Pierre Aumont, who also turns out to have a handsome young man in tow, Aumont though is killed in a car crash, a similar fate for Nicholas here ….. Is that how the French saw gay relationships in the ‘70s? – wealthy older men keeping younger ones, but not allowed to have a happy ending ….. Whatever, Blain’s film charms and keeps our interest, and is another fascinating European oddity from the ‘70s. Having now read Truffaut's review he says the older man gives the younger "the security, comfort and tender affection he craves"! It certainly helps to be rich ...

APRES LUI, 2007. One of those solid, well-crafted French family dramas. This time Catherine Deneuve is Camille, the mother of a teenager who is killed in a car crash – his best friend Franck was driving the car and the mother now focuses all her energy and attention on him wanting him to finish his exams, and offering him a job in her bookshop. Her daughter and ex-husband are baffled by her behaviour as are her late son’s other friends, as she tries to hang out with them, going to rock shows, drinking beer etc. Anyone who has been bereaved will understand this - she wants to do what he did to keep him close to her, to almost be him. The boy (Thomas Dumerchez) seems uncommunicative and baffled by it all. Finally events go too far as they burn down the tree he crashed into and they are taken into police custody. 
Its perhaps a meditation on how people cope with grief, rather like the Italian THE SON’S ROOM by Nanno Moretti. Deneuve is a sterling presence here in another good late role for her and it is ably directed by Gael Morel, who played the lead in Techine’s LES ROSEAUX SAUVAGE (WILD REEDS) (reviewed here at gay interest label) and has directed other films too, I am looking at his THREE DANCING SLAVES soon. Morel co-wrote the script here. Its absorbing though the ending is rather inconclusive.