13 items from 2015
'Saint Joan': Constance Cummings as the George Bernard Shaw heroine. Constance Cummings on stage: From sex-change farce and Emma Bovary to Juliet and 'Saint Joan' (See previous post: “Constance Cummings: Frank Capra, Mae West and Columbia Lawsuit.”) In the mid-1930s, Constance Cummings landed the title roles in two of husband Benn W. Levy's stage adaptations: Levy and Hubert Griffith's Young Madame Conti (1936), starring Cummings as a demimondaine who falls in love with a villainous character. She ends up killing him – or does she? Adapted from Bruno Frank's German-language original, Young Madame Conti was presented on both sides of the Atlantic; on Broadway, it had a brief run in spring 1937 at the Music Box Theatre. Based on the Gustave Flaubert novel, the Theatre Guild-produced Madame Bovary (1937) was staged in late fall at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre. Referring to the London production of Young Madame Conti, The »
- Andre Soares
I’d like to add to what Derek Malcolm and Peter Bradshaw have said about the kindness of Philip French. In 1965, I was a struggling young critic in London and Philip, as a BBC producer, gave me not only a vast amount of constructive advice but also vital commissions: he first asked me to review two short BBC Third Programme plays by a then totally unknown writer just out of Bristol called Tom Stoppard. For those of us who went on to work on The Critics and Critics’ Forum, Philip’s advice to “keep the first round short” is forever engraved on our hearts.
I also had wonderful evidence of Philip’s encyclopedic memory. Flattered to be included in the same batch of OBEs as Philip two years ago, I ended a congratulatory telephone call with the jokey line, “See you at the palace.” Quick as a flash, he replied, »
- Michael Billington
Liliana Cavani is a rarity among Italian directors: Throughout her career, she’s worked with many international stars, including Charlotte Rampling and Dirk Bogarde in “The Night Porter” (1974); Mickey Rourke and Helena Bonham Carter in “Francesco” (1989); and John Malkovich in “Ripley’s Game” (2002). Cavani’s first mention in Variety was Feb. 15, 1967, when her telefilm “Saint Francis of Assisi” won the Unda Catholic Prize at the Intl. Monte Carlo TV Festival.
Do you remember winning that prize?
No, but I remember how important the Vatican was in getting state broadcaster Rai to put “Francis” on the air. Even though Rai produced it, they weren’t going to air it, because Marco Bellocchio’s “Fists in the Pocket,” which also starred Lou Castel, had just been released. A right-wing politician had thundered in parliament that St. Francis could not have the same face as the (depraved) character Castel plays in Bellocchio’s film. »
- Nick Vivarelli
Writer Jesse Andrews and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon overturn the formula for the modern teen comedy: they lay on the quirky storytelling and goofy movie parodies, but also give us characters that are reasonably human and complex. We're soon invested in a warm and rewarding drama. Young actors Thomas Mann, Rj Cyler and Olivia Cooke deal with real problems, and the movie doesn't try to change the subject to sex in every scene. A charming show, very worthwhile. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Blu-ray 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment 2015 / Color / 2:35 widescreen / 105 min. / Street Date October 6, 2015 / Starring Thomas Mann, Rj Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, Katherine C. Hughes, Matt Bennett. Masam Holden. <Cinematography Chung-hoon Chung Film Editor David Trachtenberg Original Music Brian Eno, Nico Muhly Written by Jesse Andrews from his novel Produced by Jeremy Dawson, Dan Fogelman, Steven Rales Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon »
- Glenn Erickson
In a novel effort to stress that film noir wasn’t a film movement specifically an output solely produced for American audiences, Kino Lorber releases a five disc set of obscure noir examples released in the UK. Spanning a near ten year period from 1943 to 1952, the titles displayed here do seem to chart a progression in tone, at least resulting in parallels with American counterparts. Though a couple of the selections here aren’t very noteworthy, either as artifacts of British noir or items worthy of reappraisal, it does contain items of considerable interest, including rare titles from forgotten or underrated auteurs like Ronald Neame, Roy Ward Baker, and Ralph Thomas.
They Met in the Dark
- Nicholas Bell
Glenda Jackson: Actress and former Labour MP. Two-time Oscar winner and former Labour MP Glenda Jackson returns to acting Two-time Best Actress Academy Award winner Glenda Jackson set aside her acting career after becoming a Labour Party MP in 1992. Four years ago, Jackson, who represented the Greater London constituency of Hampstead and Highgate, announced that she would stand down the 2015 general election – which, somewhat controversially, was won by right-wing prime minister David Cameron's Conservative party. The silver lining: following a two-decade-plus break, Glenda Jackson is returning to acting. Now, Jackson isn't – for the time being – returning to acting in front of the camera. The 79-year-old is to be featured in the Radio 4 series Emile Zola: Blood, Sex and Money, described on their website as a “mash-up” adaptation of 20 Emile Zola novels collectively known as "Les Rougon-Macquart." Part 1 of the three-part Radio 4 series will be broadcast daily during an »
- Andre Soares
Oscar-winning costume designer Julie Harris, who helped define the swinging looks of the 1960s and ’70s London, died May 30 in London. She designed for James Bond films “Casino Royale” and “Live and Let Die” as well as the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help.” She was 94 and had suffered a chest infection.
Harris (no relation to the late actress Julie Harris) won an Academy Award for her mod designs in the 1967 Julie Christie-Dirk Bogarde film “Darling.” Over a four-decade career, she also served as costume designer on “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” “Rollerball,” the 1979 “Dracula” with Laurence Olivier and “The Great Muppet Caper.”
After working on the two Beatles films, she said, “I must be one of the few people who can claim they have seen John, Paul, George and Ringo naked.”
- Pat Saperstein
By rights I should hate the English. Seriously, my background is almost entirely Scots and Irish. I grew up hearing about the troubles the English gave to the Scots and Irish, both in school and from my parents.
Yet I do not, I love the English. How can I hate a country that gave us not only Monty Python but also Benny Hill and the Carry On Films? How can I bear any ill will to a country that gave us writers of the caliber of Ramsey Campbell, Brian Aldiss, Michael Moorcock and J. G Ballard? How can anyone hate a country that not only prizes eccentric behavior but encourages it? Take Mr. Kim Newman for instance, a brilliant writer whose work appears regularly in Video WatchDog and Videoscope Mr. Newman dresses himself, has his hair and mustache styled and speaks in the manner of someone from the 19th Century! »
- Sam Moffitt
'The Fixer' movie with Alan Bates, Dirk Bogarde and Ian Holm (background) 'The Fixer' movie review: 1968 anti-Semitism drama wrecked by cast, direction, and writing In 1969, director John Frankenheimer declared that he felt "better about The Fixer than anything I've ever done in my life." Considering Frankenheimer's previous output – Seven Days in May, the much admired The Manchurian Candidate – it is hard to believe that the director was being anything but a good P.R. man for his latest release. Adapted from Bernard Malamud's National Book Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (itself based on the real story of Jewish brick-factory worker Menahem Mendel Beilis), The Fixer is an overlong, overblown, and overwrought contrivance that, albeit well meaning, carelessly misuses most of the talent involved while sadistically abusing the patience – and at times the intelligence – of its viewers. John Frankenheimer overindulges in 1960s kitsch John Frankenheimer »
- Andre Soares
When Fifty Shades of Erotica was announced it was obvious that the release was timed to gain some exposure from the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, maybe even gain some purchases from the fans looking to branch out into the world of the naughty. There are other audiences for the DVD though, and not just those looking for a little nudity on-screen (though there is plenty, but we also have the internet for that). For fans of cinema, it’s interesting to look at the trailers and see just how things have changed.
To be clear when it comes to Fifty Shades of Erotica, this is no documentary but a selection of fifty trailers ranging from a time period spanning the sixties up to the nineties. This is an odd selection but it highlights the strangeness of the “erotica” industry, if we choose to call it that. The trailers »
- Paul Metcalf
Long ago, in the glory days of Ealing Studios, when a young spiv played by Dirk Bogarde shot dead policeman PC Dixon (Jack Warner) in The Blue Lamp (1950), all the ordinary, decent criminals were horrified. They helped flush out the killer. Back in the 1950s, or at least in British films of that era, the police were regarded with veneration. They were bobbies on the beat – friendly, hard-working types who appeared to be incorruptible. »
Part I: The Lawrence Bureau
T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935) ranks among the 20th Century’s oddest heroes. This short, smart, and mischievous British soldier helped organize the Arab Revolt against Turkey, a secondary front of the First World War. He became Emir Feisal’s trusted ally, painfully conscious that the Allies wouldn’t honor promises of independence. After the Paris Peace Conference, Lawrence retreated into the Royal Air Force and Tank Corps as a private soldier, T.E. Shaw.
Lawrence lived a curious double life, befriending both private soldiers and notables like Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw. He wrote memoirs and translated Homer while repairing boats and seaplanes. His intellect, warmth, and puckish humor masked internal torment – guilt for failing to secure Arab freedom, regret for two brothers killed in the war, shame over an incident where Turkish soldiers sexually assaulted him.
In his autobiography Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence »
- Christopher Saunders
The past year has been a great one as concerns the availability and restoration of several titles from Italian auteur Liliana Cavani, a director who came to fame and notoriety alongside peers such as Pasolini, Bellocchio, and Bertolucci. Her work has often faced difficulty in achieving the same sort of international acclaim as those male colleagues, each of them certified as a particular brand within the cinematic canon. And yet, Cavani is as equally provocative and prolific, with boundary pushing titles languishing in obscurity, usually historical reconstructions with gender or sexuality as a unique entry. Her work has often been described as having a feminist bent, but Cavani isn’t aspiring to create female agency in spaces dominated by masculinity. Rather, her concern resides in honest depictions of women ravaged by male dominated systems. Cavani’s most notorious title, 1974’s The Night Porter, received a Blu-ray transfer from Criterion recently, »
- Nicholas Bell
13 items from 2015
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