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, 16 December 2014

Christmas treats: Paddington

A young bear from Darkest Peru with a passion for all things British travels to London in search of a new home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he begins to realize that city life is not all he had imagined - until he meets the kindly Brown family, who read the label around his neck ('Please look after this bear. Thank you.') and offer him a temporary haven. It looks as though his luck has changed until this rarest of bears catches the eye of a museum taxidermist (who turns out to be the daughter of the explorer who discovered the Peruvian Bears).

PADDINGTON is a joy from start to finish, children of all ages will love it, thankfully we had practically a private screening of it early this morning at the first show at the local multiplex, while schoolchildren are still at school! 

First of all it looks great, as directed by Paul King from Michael Bond's classic tales. Every scene is magical - whether the Brown's house, or the bears' hideaway in the jungle and its a terrific London film too, showing the city at its best. 
The cast throw themselves into it - Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins (PERSUASION, BLUE JASMINE) are both perfect as the parents, Julie Walters is their housekeeper, Peter Capaldi lives next door, Matt Lucas drives a taxi, Jim Broadbent is the kindly antiques dealer. Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton voice the older bears and Ben Whishaw (above) is sheer perfection as the voice of Paddington with his love of marmalade sandwiches, there are good running gags featuring pigeons, and then there is Nicole Kidman - repenting for her dreadful GRACE OF MONACO with her deliciously camp portrayal of the evil taxidermist as a modern Cruella De Vil. 
Hugh drags up as a wacky cleaning lady as he and Paddington look for clues and then head to the Natural History Museum - this one one night at the Museum not to miss! A Film of The Year for me then! 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Another ship of fools ....

Based on the true story of a ship carrying German-Jewish refugees which was sent to Havana in 1939 by the Nazis but was denied permission to land anywhere. The ship was eventually obliged to return to Germany, where certain death awaited its passengers. This terrible outcome had been cynically anticipated by the Nazis when granting permission for the voyage in the first place.

The 1970s was that era of all-star disaster movies: the US studios gave us EARTHQUAKE, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, AIRPLANE 75 and all the rest, while in England TV mogul Sir Lew Grade assembled several all star packages, some of which were amusingly awful like our favourite THE CASSANDRA CROSSING (Sophia! Ava! Ingrid Thulin! Alida Valli! Burt Lancaster! John Philip Law! and more) and others like ESCAPE TO ATHENA was just silly, but VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED in 1976 was meant to be a serious drama but it is so crammed with names that one just sits there bemused by it all - "look, there's Julie Harris talking to Wendy Hiller" - but a lot of them have nothing to do and some barely get a look in: 
James Mason, Katharine Ross as a prostitute, Orson pops in a scene or two, as does Ben Gazzara, Helmut Griem reprises his evil Nazi (a la CABARET and Visconti's THE DAMNED), Malcolm McDowell, playing nice for once, is the young steward having a romance with Lynn Frederick (the last Mrs Peter Sellers), her parents are Lee Grant (who goes over the top spectacularly as the berserk mother cutting her hair in the concentration camp style) and Sam Wanamaker. Other well known faces here are Nehemiah Persoff and Maria Schell (also barely seen), while Jonathan Pryce is one of the persecuted refugees hoping for a new life. 

Topping the bill are Faye Dunaway and Oscar Werner (his final role) - Faye as an embittered wife displays her haughty glamour and gets to wear a monacle and strut around while her husband, Werner, practically reprising his role in SHIP OF FOOLS plays an esteemed Jewish surgeon. The captain of the "St Louis" is none other than Max Von Sydow. It should be a grim drama but the all-star cast and plodding direction of Stuart Rosenberg render it interesting for all the wrong reasons. Kramer's 1965 plodder SHIP OF FOOLS, which we caught and reviewed a year or so ago (Simone Signoret label), did it all much better. 

THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN in 1969 was also an all-star spectacular, helmed by the reliable Michael Anderson - one of several that year (BATTLE OF BRITAIN, OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR) - from a novel about the first Russian pope and how he tackles world poverty, from a novel by Morris West - which is another long, if entertaining, plod to see now, but at least it employed Anthony Quinn as the pope, Laurence Olivier as a wily Russian official, Oscar Werner again as another doomed priest, Gielgud as another ailing pope, and many, many more. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Very 1964

Here's a fascinating group photograph from that wonderful month, April 1964 - when 18 year old me arrived in London. I do not know who took this shot (or is it a compilation of several pictures?) but it was at The Empire Pool, Wembley in North London. It seems all the pop stars of the time are here, apart from The Beatles who were off conquering America.
You can though see The Rolling Stones (including Brian Jones),The Searchers, Billy J Kramer, Freddie and his Dreamers, Paul Jones and Manfred Mann, Kenny Lynch, The Merseybeats and The Fourmost, plus Cilla Black (black leather coats were all the rage then for guys and gals) and Kathy Kirby and Cathy McGowan of READY STEADY GO where the weekends began!
Other 60s groups like The Yardbirds or The Moody Blues or The Kinks or Herman's Hermits, and The Who are not included, nor The Animals or Gerry and the Pacemakers or even The Dave Clark Five! but hey, not every group was there that day,  nor young Marianne Faithfull or Sandie Shaw! or Dusty ...

But this was the 1964 look, most groups wore jackets and ties - it was not until 1967 or so that the hippie look took off and lots more hair and moustaches and psychedelic clothes.
One sad note - quite a few of these here are no longer with us - but at that moment they were part of a golden age of British pop stars, mainly from the (Stones excepted) squaresville end of pop. The big music movie hit that year was of course The Beatles in Richard Lester's A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (The Beatles label).

One has to think back to what life was like in 1964 - no wonder young people were joining groups and making music. There were just two television channels, the BBC and commercial ITV, in black and white, geared to the family audience (READY STEADY GO on Fridays was about the only pop programme then catering for the teen crowd) and they closed down at night early, movies could not be shown on TV until they were 5 years old, if you wanted big screens and colour you went to the cinema. (The Third channel BBC2 and colour came in later in the Sixties, which were Swinging by then...) and in that pre-computer world typing on manual typewriters in the typing pool was normal and factory jobs were still plentiful. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Beatles for sale ?

I've just realised I am sitting on two fairly valuable bits of Beatles memorabilia. The 1964 Beatles calender which I bought at the time, when I was 18 and moved to London in April 1964. Here'a a blurb on it: 

The Beatles Book Calendar For 1964 (Very rare original 1963 UK official 9" x 11" spiral bound 12-page calendar with each page having a picture of the fabs, a great caricature & your month horoscope, complete with the original 'PRICE SIX SHILLINGS' caricature front cover. An amazing UK collectable from the beginnings of Beatlemania in fantastic condition.
Mine has terrific black and white pictures of the Fabs for each month. 

Then there is a Beatles headscarf, which I must have bought when new in London in 1964: again, a blurb selling one says:

Beatles Headscarf (Rare 1964 UK 27" square nylon headscarf designed by Barnett with a great montage of caricature Beatle scenes in brown & red print with a head & facsimile signature in each corner. This fascinating vintage item has obviouslybeen used, but apart from three very small holes and some yellow discolouration from extremely non eco-friendly 60s hairspray, it is in great condition. A fantastic forty year old piece of original Beatle memorabilia!).
Mine is a bit discoloured by age too, but has never been worn! 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

A classic year: 1975

IMDB 's Classic Film Board has a thread on the best films of 1975. I submitted my 1975 top twenty - I didn't realise it was such a classic year! and of course in that pre-video, pre-internet world we had to see all those films at the cinema (and London still had plentiful arthouse and revival circuit chains) and read the movie magazines to keep up with them ...  I have written about several of these here, as per labels.

THE PASSENGER - Antonioni 
LOVE AND DEATH - Woody Allen 
SEVEN BEAUTIES - Wertmuller 
TOMMY - Russell 
SHAMPOO - Ashby 

Dreadful but compulsive (for Lee Remick, Barbra Streisand fans!): HENNESSEY / FUNNY LADY

A fascinating year in the mid-70s then, CHINATOWN was the year before, and the following year 1976 had TAXI DRIVER, OBSESSION and Visconti's L'INNOCENTE to fascinate us, while 1977 and beyond took us into CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, ANNIE HALL, NEW YORK NEW YORK and the rest ... not a bad decade at all, the 70s are up there with the 50s and 60s - great to have lived through them as cinema changed and developed so much.

1975 was of course also a great year for music - on those vinyl gatefold albums, like this Joni Mitchell favourite: "The Hissing of Summer Lawns".
Other classic years here, as per labels: 1954, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1970

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Clifton and Sophia

Thanks indeed to Daryl for posting this nice shot of Projector favourites Sophia Loren and Clifton Webb in BOY ON A DOLPHIN, 1957, on my Facebook page for my birthday. Delicious ! 

The Ripleys again: Matt or Alain?

We had to have another look at THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY on television once again, the other day, despite rushing to it when released in 1999 and seen it several times since. It is Anthony Minghella's glossy adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's classic novel and is an engaging, if hollow, thriller in bright Italian sunshine. Minghella though, as per his published screenplay, greatly expands on the novel fleshing out characters, played by Cate Blanchett and Jack Davenport, who are barely mentioned by Highsmith. Cate is rich girl Meredith, while Jack is Ripley's new love - whom he has to get rid of in order to continue his duplicitous new life. 
We note also how Dickie is made more of a heel - getting that local girl pregnant and his indifference when she drowns herself - so presumably we the audience do not feel too bad when he is bumped off - but of course Jude Law is so charismatic here the film drifts once he is not there to tease and taunt Matt Damon's nerdy needy Tom. So its an overlong, drawn out affair as our glamorous people act out Highsmith's chilling tale. Philip Seymour Hoffman scores too in that key small role
What sinks it for me is the trowelled-on Fifties period detail - all those fussy '50s fashions they wear, with hats and gloves. Whereas in Rene Clement's PLEIN SOLEIL, the 1959 original, they were smart casual clothes that would still be fashionable now, they look strikingly modern in fact - and 24 year old Alain Delon, stunnng Marie Laforet and Maurice Ronet as Dickie are all perfectly right. Its a shorter tale, and even with that changed ending, it works better. Delon in that ice blue suit strolling around the market, and Marie Laforet as Marge strumming that guitar surrounded by her Fra Angelico prints, and the tensions of the three of them on the boat, and of course Dickie suddenly realising he is in danger after pushing Tom too far ... all set on the real mediterranean of 1959 as captured by Henri Decae's glowing colours. 
I have written a lot about PLEIN SOLEIL here, see the labels below, It is of course the tale of how New York wannabe Tom Ripley's life changes after he is sent to Italy to haul back errant playboy Dickie Greenleaf. In the 1999 version Matt Damon makes Ripley suitably sinister and needy and Jude Law is at his charismatic best as the wastrel rich boy whom Ripley wants for himself or failing that to be him, taking over his life ...just as Delon and Ronet played it in 1959.
I first saw that version when 14 in 1960, when it opened my eyes to European glamour and beauty. Its a seminal movie for me. as much as 2001, BLOW-UP, or LA NOTTE BRAVA, SANDRA, MODESTY BLAISE, WHATS NEW PUSSYCAT? etc. but THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY is fascinating too.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Donna: de luxe and re-issued

I am delighted to finally have a cd of Donna's 1982 album titled "Donna Summer", the one produced by Quincy Jones - and a de luxe, remastered edition too, in a book format, with copious notes and extra versions of "Love is in Conrol" and "State of Independence". This for me is Donna's best later album and has been unavailable on cd for a long time. The album with Quincy Jones is one of my favourite 80's albums that never sounds dated and Donna's voice sounds amazing.  

"Love is in Control" was the first song I heard on a friend's Sony Walkman, so I had to dash out and get my own one - it still sounds terrific now, and I love her version of the Billy Strayhorn classic "Lush Life".

Its part of a 6 cd boxset, but the albums are available singly at a good price. Looks like Donna is back in favour again ... It was also good to get Grace Jones' seminal album "Nightclubbing" also in that de luxe re-mastered format with lots of extra tracks, earlier this year - Grace Jones label - and Diana Ross's Chic album "Diana". 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Kay by Cecil

And here is a nice photo of Projector favourite Kay Kendall, taken by Cecil Beaton - see post on him below, with Gary Cooper. Beaton also did some portraits of Rex Harrison (and Audrey Hepburn and Gladys Cooper) on the set of MY FAIR LADY in 1964. Kay died in 1959 - here are some other nice shots of her, which are new to me. 

She certainly knew how to wear furs (below, for Vogue in 1957) and feather boas - as in THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE in 1958 - it was a delight seeing it revived on the big screen a year or so ago. 
Lots more Kay at label .... 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Gary by Cecil

I was stunned and pleased to receive as a birthday present (thanks so much Colin) a sumptuous coffee table book on Cecil Beaton portraits with his comments on the sitters. We know he did not like Elizabeth Taylor and his waspish comments are here in full. One he did like was the young Gary Cooper, caught here in this terrific 1937 portrait showing maybe the most beautiful man of the 1930s. We like the older Cooper too in his '50s movies - right. and left: Beaton with Cooper. 
The book includes all those others too: Monroe, both Hepburns, Dietrich, Royalty, all the high society of that era from the 20s to the 60s including another fascination of Beaton's: Mick Jagger, Nureyev, Hockney etc. and of course Greta Garbo ..... and is compiled by Beaton's literary executor and biographer Hugo Vickers. 

Cecil Beaton (1904–80) was educated at Harrow and Cambridge. His photographs first appeared in "Vanity Fair" and "Vogue" in the 1920s. During World War II he served in the British Ministry of Information, covering the fighting in Africa and East Asia. The foremost photographer of his day, he also designed the settings and costumes for numerous films and plays - GIGI, MY FAIR LADY, Streisand Regency flashbacks in ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER, and was a published and well-known diarist. Beaton was knighted in 1972. I will have to return to his many diaries ...

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

2001 rides again

2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY: Kubrick's trippy 1968 space opera, spanning millions of years of human evolution and set to music by Strauss, Khachatrian and Ligeti, is a singularly awesome and mesmerising film, and one of the great cinema experiences. You owe it to yourself to see it at least once on the big screen. Thankfully, it gets revived every decade or so - the BFI in London currently have it a the centre-piece of their extended science fiction season, and in fact are bringing over the two stars: Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood for a discussion (happening tomorow 30 November, in point of fact) - though they also recorded a featurette for TCM a few years ago, used for screenings of the film then. 
Thankfully, my first exposure to the film was its original Cinerama release in 1968, when I was 22 - and saw it with my hippie friends and yes, we took acid. The spaceships floating in space to that music, the docking pad, the trip to Jupiter ..... it may have taken a long time cinemawise, but in real life nearly 50 years or so  has taken its toll on its human players - as below, taken last year.
It is of course a film of dazzling effects, and powerful use of music. Kubrick's opus proposed a new kind of pure cinema, and set the benchmark for sci-fi films as it challenged the audience to contemplate its meaning. It is the ultimate 'fear and wonder' film, which has influenced right up to Nolan's INTERSTELLAR
2001 of course was co-written by Arthur C Clarke (I had his novel of it), shot by Goffrey Unsworth, designed by Douglas Trumbull, and perfectly scored matching images to classical music which works perfectly, and all shot at Elstree here in England! It changed our concept of space and spaceships showing the vastness of space and the everyday nature of space travel. Of course for some it is a pain to decipher - one can make what one wants of that ending. Masterpieces are not meant to be easy ...

My pal Joe gave me a plastic advertising poster for 2001 which they used in the store he worked at - I kept it for decades and then it broke and crumbled into pieces ...... it would have been a collector's item if I had sold it at the right time!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Back to the BLOW-UP ...

No film captures Sixties London as perfectly as BLOW-UPThanks to Daryl for sending me details of a new exhibition in Switzerland (there was one, maybe the same, in Vienna recently, for which I wrote the piece below...). The Swiss one says: "The cult film "Blow-Up" by Michelangelo Antonioni (1966) occupies a central position in the history of film as well as that of art and photography. No other film has shown and sounded out the diverse areas of photography in such a differentiated way. The photographic range of ’Blow-Up’ is highly diversified and ranges from fashion photography and social reportage to abstract photography.. For the first time in Switzerland the exhibition at the Fotomuseum Winterthur presents in several chapters the diverse and differentiated connections between film and photography, thus allowing a trenchant profile of the photographic trends of the 1960s."

From a previous BLOW-UP post:
Is there another film that seems to crystalise a moment in time as perfectly as Antonioni's BLOW-UP? Viewed today, it seems like a "greatest hits" compilation of London's swinging era: the buoyant Herbie Hancock soundtrack; (which I have loved in vinyl, CD and iPod), the Yardbirds gig, complete with a cameo from Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck; Jane Birkin's blink and you'll miss it full-frontal moment that ushered in more lenient censorship in cinema.

A new book and exhibition at Vienna's Albertina Gallery (April - August) seeks to delve deeper into the context of the 1966 film, which really gained momentum in 1967, with a mix of photographs from the film and those photographs taken by veteran photographer Don McCullin (now 79) which Antonioni wanted for 'the murder in the park' sequence - those grainy images which turn out to show a man with a gun. McCullin says the reason Antonioni came to London was that "he saw it as an uptight country that was suddenly breaking open like a paper bag".  There was an exhibition in London which I attended, maybe 5 or 6 years ago now, on the film also showing those McCullin photos, so the Vienna exhibition may be more or less similar.
Antonioni was fascinated by London's fashion photographers after a significant feature about them in The Sunday Times on David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy who were immortalised in Francis Wyndham's 1964 article. The film became a process of art imitation pop life. Bailey (whose "Box of Pin-Ups" was a big hit at the time) declined to appear in the project, Terence Stamp was lined up to play Thomas the photographer, but lost out after Antonioni saw the relatively unknown David Hemmings in a play at Hampstead Theatre. 

I did not know that the model dancing on the roof over the opening credits was American supermodel Donyale Luna (whom my Australian friend Garry knew). Verushka of course is the other super-model in that stunning scene with Hemmings, while Jill Kennington and Peggy Moffitt are among the models waiting to be captured on film, and Janet Street-Porter is the girl dancing in the club!. We love that studio (John Cowan's) too, which was once an abbatoir. Landscapes and interiors are so mesmerising here, as is usual with Antonioni films, and not only that green park but the streets and city landscrape our hero drives around in, talking on his two way radio ! 
There have been several books on the meaning of BLOW-UP over the years and I think I have seen most of them. That recent coffee-table tome is terrific, great photos and essays. I was 21 when I first saw BLOW-UP that great year 1967 - it and The Beatles' SGT PEPPER album defined our cultural landscape that year. The film also highlights the political and social ambiguities that resonated during that '60s boom. 

The Vienna gallery says: There is hardly another feature film that has shown the diverse areas of photography in such a differentiated fashion, and which attempts to fathom them in such a detailed and timeless manner.
The protagonist believes that he has "documented" a murder; however, the photos turn out to provide only ambivalent evidence, because even enlargements or blow-ups of these photos don't reveal the presumed corpse. This cinematic study of the representation of images and their ambivalence demonstrates that Blow-Up has retained its cultural relevance since its creation in 1966.

I saw Sarah Miles at that THE SERVANT screening last year (Miles label), it would have been interesting to have been able to talk to her about BLOW-UP but we already know it was not a happy shoot for her ... 

The film still looks marvellous now, London looks fresh and clean, but is it a British, Italian or American film?, seeing as it was created and produced by Italians, shot in England, for MGM ... whatever, it remains an essential '60s classic.
One hilarious BLOW-UP artefact for me is Professor Peter Brunette's commentary on the DVD which is very po-faced as it states the obvious and tells us what we are about to see, and comes across like he is trying to explain the film's milieu to a classroom of American teenagers who know nothing about the Sixties or who these people like Vanessa Redgrave are. Maybe that's what teaching teenagers is like .... ?
See BLOW-UP label for more on the film, ditto Antonioni, Hemmings, Redgrave, Miles labels