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, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

"Hollywood's most stylish director"

London's National Film Theatre is celebrating Vincente Minnelli "who directed some of the most successful films in 3 of the most successful modes of cinema: the musical, melodrama and comedy.... He is one of the screen's great colourists - even his black and white films handle tones brilliantly to evoke colour. The films are masterclasses in decoration, from his background in window dressing, fashion photography and revues and stage musicals." There is always a splash of yellow or red (or both as in Cyd Charisse's briefly seen number in THE BANDWAGON), and as I said before here (Minnelli, THE BANDWAGON labels) I love that yellow room in Jack Buchanan's townhouse, and the fabulous apartment of Rex and Kay Kendall in THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE (with those yellow and red armchairs and lamps, and those perfect green chairs), and of course the yellow LONG LONG TRAILER. Vincente too often wore a yellow jacket, as in some interviews with him.
I have the dvds but it is great to get the chance to see on the big screen the Harrisons with Sandra Dee and Angela Lansbury in THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE (written about here several times, Kay Kendall label) and Greg and Lauren perfectly cast in DESIGNING WOMAN - a key Minnelli [both already booked now]. Dolores Gray also shines here (Greg is about to get that plate of ravioli in his lap in the restaurant, below) and it also plays a lot on gender issues - the rather camp dancer friend of Bacall's saves the day at the end fighting off those gangsters and proudly shows the photos of his wife and kids! - and it has that 1950s look in spades. (The dancer friend is played by gay choreographer Jack Cole (who put Monroe and others through their paces in those great numbers he choreographed) but presumably his character could not be seen to be gay back in 1957! or maybe Vincente was playing with gender stereotypes...)

His '40s classics like MEET ME IN ST LOUIS remain so well-known (I have not seen his UNDERCURRENT from '47 though with Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor and Mitchum) so I am pleased to see they are showing all his films including those now little-seen delirious melodramas like THE COBWEB, TEA AND SYMPATHY, LUST FOR LIFE, SOME CAME RUNNING, HOME FROM THE HILL, TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN and 4 HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALPYSE (both 1962), THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER and the long-unseen GOODBYE CHARLE, and of course Streisand's Regency scenes (as dressed by Beaton) in ON A CLEAR DAY... Bring them on. BRIGADOON is a fond childhood Sunday afternon matinee memory, I was up close to the screen and loved those widescreen images) - pity it had to be shot on soundstages, the New York insert is a delight, and KISMET (another Sunday afternoon matinee) is more gaudy entertainment with another great turn by our favourite Dolores Gray. I have to admit though that I am less than enamoured by AN AMERICAN IN PARIS!

Friday, 30 March 2012

People We Like: Sarah Miles

We were discussing legendary actresses 0ver at IMDB (Internet Movie Database), few were as individual or quirky as one of my 60s favourites, Sarah Miles, who had a very interesting career until it imploded in a scandal in the '70s. Sarah though survived it all, her books make fascinating reading, and presumably as Robert Bolt's widow (they married twice) she does not need to work now, but it would be nice to see her in older roles where I imagine she could be a very imperious dowager ...

Born in 1941 Sarah burst into the swinging '60s as the schoolgirl accusing her teacher of indecent assault when he spurns her advances, in TERM OF TRIAL in 1962, Peter Glenville's downbeat film where Olivier and Simone Signoret can do nothing much with their roles, the young Terence Stamp was also in it, and Sarah had certainly arrived. She was on the cover of all the magazines at the time. Her brother Christopher also starred her in his amusing short THE SIX SIDED TRIANGLE where she and Nicol Williamson played out romantic triangles in different styles (Swedish, French, Italian, silent movie style etc). She was one of the new British girls along with Julie Christie, Susannah York, Samantha Eggar and Rita Tushingham.
The next film certainly established her, as the slutty, vixenish Vera in Losey's THE SERVANT when Dirk Bogarde introduces her as his sister to master James Fox's elegant Chelsea house .... Vera soon causes things to heat up in this essential 60s drama. She and Fox had already been an item before they were cast in the film.

She then appeared in Laurence Harvey's first directing effort, THE CEREMONY, which I saw as a supporting feature in 1964, a muddled drama about capital punishment which did not make much impression.

THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES was a popular movie (and still is, I caught a tv screening the other day) stuffed with all the comics of the time, like Terry Thomas, Alberto Sordi etc. Sarah is Robert Morley's daughter being wooed by brash American Stuart Whitman and reticent Englishman James Fox again.

The next one is a particular favourite, which I have written about several times here: I WAS HAPPY HERE in 1966, a nice black and white romantic drama by Edna O'Brien (following on from the success of her THE GIRL WITH GREEN EYES) about the impossibility of love, and again with an Irish/English background, as Sarah as Cassie in London leaves her uncomprehending husband (Julian Glover) and returns to her Irish village (Lahinch and Liscannor in County Clare) in search of her lost love, fisherman Sean Caffrey. But things cannot be the same, as the husband turns up, and Cyril Cusack presides over the local out of season hotel. It was wonderful seeing this again recently, it deserves to be a lot better known.

Antonioni's BLOW-UP followed, the 1960s in aspic (and my very favourite movie, as per endless dicussions on it) - where photographer David Hemmings takes those photos in the park and when developing them thinks he has seen a murder .... this classic has been discussed and analyzed endlessly and remains a key 60s movie. It resonated a lot with me when I first saw it in 1967 aged 21. Sarah is Patricia, involved with painter John Castle but seemingly wanting to get involved with Hemmings. She only has a few scenes - Vanessa Redgrave scores as the mysterious woman in the park - and when Antonioni told her it did not matter who the man on top of her was (she had wanted to know if he was meant to be her husband or her lover) she more or less left the film, so it was not a happy experience for her.
Her next film was a return to Ireland (County Kerry) this time for what turned out to be the protracted shoot on RYAN'S DAUGHTER, David Lean's overblown epic, with Sarah as the headstrong Rosy Ryan impulsively marrying older school teacher, Robert Mitchum, and then falling for shell-shocked English officer (Christopher Jones)... Like BLOW-UP, RYAN'S DAUGHTER also polarised viewers, some deriding it (critic Pauline Kael for instance) while others love its lush romantics.

By now Sarah was married to screenwriter Robert Bolt, their first marriage was from 1967 to 1975, after RYAN'S DAUGHTER he wrote and directed LADY CAROLINE LAMB for her, it was released in 1973 and again was less than successful but it remains a great costume movie and romantic drama, with a matchless cast led by Olivier, Richardson, Margaret Leighton, Pamela Brown, Richard Chamberlain as Byron who eventually tires of Lady Caroline's excesses and Jon Finch as her husband. Sarah caught the flightly rather tiresome heroine perfectly.

Alan Bridges' THE HIRELING in '73 was a nice little drama with Robert Shaw, but that other L P Hartley adaptation THE GO-BETWEEN got all the publicity and awards.

Then some American movies beckoned: THE MAN WHO LOVED CAT DANCING, a very bizarre western where she gets brutally raped, starred Burt Reynolds, but the film became infamous when her manager at the time, who it seems was obsessed about her, killed himself which led to lots of scandalous headlines. There was also an adaptation of GREAT EXPECTIONS where she must have been a good Estella to Margaret Leighton's Miss Havisham - this began as a musical, and then wasn't - but few saw it.

THE SAILOR WHO FELL FROM GRACE WITH THE SEA was another odd title at the time, 1976 - very explicit, including some nude photos in "Playboy" magazine which I remember, with her and Kris Kristofferson, from Yukio Mishima, and directed by a '70s name John Lewis Carlino. I only hope that cat was not really harmed in that scene where the children dissect it . . .

Lesser movies followed, and she had divorced Bolt - there was no need for a Michael Winner remake of THE BIG SLEEP in 1978 (did anyone bother to see it?), and she is wasted in VENOM, that brilliant snake on the loose movie in '81, with her ex-lover Nicol Williamson, Oliver Reed and Susan George, as per my review here (Sarah label).

Other 80s movies included an appearance in her brother Christopher's PRIEST OF LOVE about DH Lawrence, but her role mainly ended up on the cutting room floor; and she was tremendous in WHITE MISCHIEF in '87 about those randy aristocrats in Kenya in the 1930s and a famous murder case - Sarah has a saucy scene with the corpse of her lover at the morgue, and I loved her greeting a new dawn ....

She had also done a startling interview with the BBC's Michael Parkinson, where she admitted to drinking her urine (good for the health apparantly) so she had acquired a rather eccentric reputation. John Boorman's HOPE AND GLORY was her last movie of note, as well as Losey's final film STEAMING where she stripped off in this tale set in a ladies sauna, with Vanessa Redgrave and Diana Dors (her final film too), again it was too little seen. Her last credit seems to have been a tv POIROT episode in 2004.

Her memoirs (particularly "Serves Me Right") were fascinating, detailing her on-off dalliance with Laurence Olivier (before her marriage to Bolt), and friends like Laurence Harvey ("I wasn't a very good actor, was I?" he said, watching one of his films while he was dying), and her happy re-marriage to Bolt in 1988, until his death in 1995, as well as her spiritual side, love of animals and that entire Robert Bolt saga.

I also saw her on the stage in the late 70s in another Bolt play VIVAT REGINA where she was Mary Queen of Scots to the Elizabeth I of Margaret Tyzack and Eileen Atkins. It would be good to see Sarah back in action again - Lord Fellowes could write a juicy role for her as say a good friend of Maggie Smith's Countess of Grantham in DOWNTON ABBEY, ideally sparring with Shirley McLaine ... like her contemporaries Julie Christie and Charlotte Rampling (and indeed Romy Schneider until her death in 1982) Sarah was always an individual who did things her way and had no time for the show biz games others play to keep their names in print.

More Sarah: I have just got a novel she wrote in 1998: "Beautiful Mourning", which seems to have been well received, and my pal Jorge in Sao Paulo has recommended another film of hers I do not know at all: THE SILENT TOUCH by Zanussi, made in 1992 - which must never have played in Europe. A copy is now on its way to me, with the intriguing teaming of Max Von Sydown and Sarah as a married couple and also with Lothaire Bluteau. Has to be at least interesting ...

2013 update: 
Like some senior dippy hippie, Sarah, now 71, has opened a healing &relaxation centre, as per her website:
It looks absolutely lovely, with some great photos and I am temped to make a booking myself. I of course saw Sarah recently at that 50th anniversary screening of her 1963 classic THE SERVANT, as per Losey, Bogarde, 1963, James Fox labels. ... 

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Coming Attractions

Interesting to see a theatre production of THE CUSTARD BOYS coming up on the gay theatre circuit. Not a gay novel as such, it does feature a relationship between two boys - one a German refugee - in an English village during wartime when the local teenage gang fantasise about fighting and winning the war. It was a well-received novel by John Rae, who was a headteacher of Westminister College, and it was made into a sensitive, little seen film by Philip Leacock in 1962, REACH FOR GLORY - which I had not seen for decades until last year, and reviewed at War label. It will be interesting to see what the new stage production will be like, but if it renews interest in this terrific novel it will be well worth it.

Also coming up, the next LOVEBOX music weekend here in London in June, these annual events are organised by dance producers and act Groove Armada whose work is always fascinating. Again a great linup across the board over the weekend, catering a lot too to the gay clubbing crowd: Grace Jones, HOT CHIP, Emile Sande, Lana Del Ray, Tiga, Holly Johnson from FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (always a pleasure to see and hear him), Nile Rodgers and CHIC etc....

Incidentially I saw Grace headling a concert in a park in London back in 2002 - I had never seen her live before though her albums like NIGHTCLUBBING and SLAVE TO THE RHYTHM were essential, along with those videos and remixes. She kept us waiting in the growing dark for about 45 minuties after a long day in the park and then appeared just as the audience were getting annoyed - and she blew us all away, what a theatrical performance! We were left stunned and mesmerised, one of the best live acts I have seen.... here's to summer then.

Philip Jenkinson, R.I.P.

Those of a certain vintage here in England will fondly remember broadcaster Philip Jenkinson (1935-2012, who died on 4 March aged 76) from the early days of BBC2 television in the late 60s and 70s. He was one of the resident critics - the camp one - on new channel BBC2's flagship arts programme "Late Night Line Up" where he often interviewed older stars and directors and was passionable about classic movies of the 30s and earlier - fascinating then to young people like myself in my 20s finding out about the classics of earlier eras. He also co-hosted BBC2's "Film Night" back in the days when they pioneered showing classic and world cinema movies.
Like fellow critic Alexander Walker, Philip had that bouffant hairstyle and his enthusiasm for cinema was catching - a worthy colleague to the more serious Tony Bilbow and Joan Bakewell twirling her pencil in her op art mini-dresses as "the thinking man's crumpet" - (or Joan Bakewell Tart, as she was parodied in "Private Eye"; now in her 70s she champions older people's rights). Jenkinson also had regular columns in magazines like "Radio Times", and was parodied by Eric Idle in a MONTY PYTHON sketch and he appeared with other critics like Barry Norman and Michael Aspel in a MORECAMBE & WISE special where they were all dressed as sailors singing "There is nothing like a dame", back in 1977. RIP to a great champion of classic movies.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

That week with Marilyn

Finally, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN. Amusing in parts, but I have to side with that first review by Liz Smith, which I quoted here some months ago (at Marilyn Monroe label). The way they look at Marilyn here is as if it is the Marilyn of legend who appears among them - but Marilyn back then was just another American leading lady - the blonde to Liz Taylor's brunette - and widely regarded as a sexpot, the later "serious actress" Marilyn of THE MISFITS was in the future...

The film, like THE KING'S SPEECH, trowels on the period detail and it all looks very nice, as directed by Simon Curtis; Kenneth Branagh is a joy perfectly catching the sly Olivier here and the snippets from the movie are fun, particularly with Judi Dench in Dame Sybil mode. It also crams in the cameos, as the likes of Derek Jacobi and Simon Russell Beale pop up, Eddie Redmayne though does not strike me as being that charismatic ...

Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller does not register at all, but its an under-written part, and Vivien Leigh had to be more charismatic than Julia Ormond here (same problem with Kate Beckinsale's Ava Gardner in THE AVIATOR). Worst served by the film is Milton Greene - as played by Dominic Cooper, but it is the part as written that is at fault. It is as though the writers and producers took everything at face value and decided to cast Greene as a baddie, whereas in fact he and Marilyn were very close for years and she stayed with him and his wife for a period, when they were setting up their production company. He also took some of the best photographs of her in that mid-50s period.

The film succeeds or fails of course in the depiction of MM by Michelle Williams (whom I last saw trudging behind her covered wagon dressed in calico in that odd western MEEK'S CUTOFF (western label) - it is an astoundng brave performance, capturing at times the essence of Monroe: she strikes some MM poses and that "shall I be her?" moment is good. It wasn't a good idea though to include Williams singing "Tropical Heatwave" not in any version MM did, as it cruelly shows that she is not Monroe.... Pity Dame Meryl took on Mrs Thatcher in the same year ...

The other problem is they present this as a true story - but how real is it? Clark's memoir is widely seen as fictional now, and that sequence where they skinnydip in the lake certainly is. Monroe notoriously told an assisant sent to fetch her on SOME LIKE IT HOT to go f*ck himself, so how pally would she have been with a very minor assistant in a studio in England a few years previously?

Jack Cardiff's memoir MAGIC HOUR (which I have written about here too) may be more truthful about the making of the film, he certainly made Marilyn look her best here, and he liked her a lot, his book had a wonderful chapter on her and her perceived demons.

So in all, plenty of interest, but it really makes one want to see THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL again, I have written quite a bit about it at 1957 and MM labels.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Showpeople, revisited

I did a post on the above terrific photo last year, which I had found on that great site for 1960s glamour, among other things, STIRRED, STRAIGHT UP, WITH A TWIST, but did not know where or when it was taken, with Julie Christie, Ursula Andress and Catherine Deneuve on a night out comparing their dresses, all with those long white gloves. I felt Deneuve looked a little 'mumsy' compared to the other two. It was obviously mid-60s sometime. Now we know:

Here is another photo of that evening: it was the Royal Film Performance 1966 in London and the film was BORN FREE, which none of the girls were in, but were presented to the Queen, along with Christopher Lee, Woody Allen and others .....

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Youngblood Hawke

At last I have caught up with YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE, a 1964 delicious entry in the Trash stakes that eluded me at the time. Its long - 2 hours and 20 mintues - and in black and white like those other farragos of that time that I like (like SYLVIA, A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME - see Trash label) and finally available on Warner Archives label. Here is the tasteful blurb:

"Herman Wouk's bestseller about a Kentucky-born writer's spectacular rise and fall among the big city glitterati gets the big-screen treatment courtesy of Warner Bros master of melodrama Delmer Daves. Daves, fresh from a string of successes, recruited celebrated composer Max Steiner to score the film, adding gravitas to the glitz.
James Franciscus stars as the title character, a truck driver who arrives in New York City intent on making it as a writer. Aided by a friendly editor Jeanne Green (Suzanne Pleshette) Hawk's star is on the rise, both among the intelligentsia and the jet set. Hawk inevitaby succumbs to the lures of high society, breaking Jeanne's heart and eventually seeing his career destroyed by the jealous husband of one of his paramours."

Every cliche is lovingly polished as our truck driver hero moves to New York to take the city by storm at the hot new novelist. It must have been an important project for Daves as he also wrote the script. Wouk had written those other blockbusters like THE CAINE MUTINY and MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR - another ponderous Warners melodrama with Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly in 1958, and well worth reviewing too - so must have been a hot writer like A SUMMER PLACE's a Sloane Wilson or THE BEST OF EVERYTHING's Rona Jaffe, not to mention PEYTON PLACE's Grace Metalious. James Franciscus looks good but is rather dull - a taller duller Robert Redford - and all wrong for the hero, it needed a Steve McQueen or Paul Newman, though they had enough similar roles on their hands (like Sinatra is all wrong for me in SOME CAME RUNNING as it needed a Monty Clift or Newman rather than One-Take Frank walking through his scenes, but I digress, as usual.).

The interest here is the great cast: Suzanne Pleshette is warm and sympathetic and lovely as usual as the book editor our hero leaves for wealthy society matron Frieda, a great role for French actress Genevieve Page. She takes the trashy material and makes it something else entirely, in a better film it would have got her an Oscar nomination at least (she is as good as Simone Signoret in ROOM AT TOP). The languid Frieda soon has Youngblood installed in an actor friend's luxury apartment with a great view of the New York skyline ("did it have to be an attic?" she says on visiting his humble apartment) but she pays a hard price for her transgressions when her son falls ill ... also on hand are Mary Astor making the most of a few scenes as a famous actress, and Mildred Dunnock as Youngblood's mother. The drama is piled on with family squabbles over money, as Youngblood rises and falls when the critics fall on his latest tome, as our hero sells out but of course by the last reel comes to his senses with the real girl he loves waiting for him - after that spell in an oxygen tent (just like Carroll Baker's HARLOW, in that trashiest of trash epics, the 1965 Harlow film. It is an interesting curio now like Fox's HILDA CRANE with Jean Simmons in '56 or Warner's delirious CLAUDELLE INGLISH in '61 or even RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE ! (all at Trash label).
Delmer Daves (left, with Mary Astor) had a curious career as director: he helmed some marvellous westerns in the '50s, like DRUM BEAT (one of the first westerns I was taken to, by my father), the original 3.10 TO YUMA, COWBOY, THE HANGING TREE (that great late Cooper western in '59), and he wrote WHITE FEATHER; then he switched to those Warner melodramas of the late '50s and early '50s: A SUMMER PLACE, followed by those Troy Donahue romances for the teen set like PARRISH, SUSAN SLADE, ROME ADVENTURE which also had Suzanne Pleshette (who was briefly married to Donahue then, they also did a Roual Walsh western, his last, A DISTANT TRUMPET, and of course she made a big impression as Annie Hayward in Hitch's THE BIRDS, and I liked her in those other mellers like FATE IS THE HUNTER and A RAGE TO LIVE.

Daves though went with another blonde for YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE - but James Franciscus [1934-1991, he died age 57] is just not that charismatic. The movie is really stolen by the slinky Genevieve Page (left), whom I liked a lot in EL CID as the spiteful Princess Urraca (right) trying to get the better of Sophia Loren's Chimene, and she featured in Dirk Bogarde's SONG WITHOUT END in 1960, BELLE DE JOUR, the 1968 MAYERLING, Billy Wilder's THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES in 1970, and another seducer of a callow young man, but played for laughs, in the amusing 1968 film of Waugh's DECLINE AND FALL. She is still with us in her 80s and was working until recently.

We had quite a few seductive older ladies keeping younger men in the movies then: Joan Fontaine's ritzy society dame toying with and discarding her younger lovers in SERENADE in '56 (Trash/Fontaine labels), Vivien Leigh in THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS STONE in 1960, Patricia Neal as Paul Varjak's keeper in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, Page here with YOUNGBLOOD ...
More on those Troy Donahue epics soon.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Tonino Guerra, R.I.P.

Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra [1920-2012], best known for his collaborations with director Michelangelo Antonioni, has died aged 92. Guerra, who scripted more than 100 screenplays, was nominated for three Oscars for his work on Antonioni's BLOW-UP, Fellini's AMARCORD and CASANOVA 70.

Tonino, like that other venerable Italian screenwriter Suso Cecchi D'Amico (who collaborated many times with Visconti, and who died last year aged 96, RIP label) lived through practically a whole century of Italian culture. "We have lost a poet, a genius and marvellous person," said former culture minister Walter Veltroni. These Italians sure have longevity, Antonioni was also in his 90s.

Born in 1920, Guerra, who was also a poet and a sculptor, began to write during World War II, when he was imprisoned in a concentration camp in Germany. He went on to co-author some of the defining Italian films of the 1960s and '70s, working with a host of legendary directors including Antonioni, Fellini, Visconti and Vittorio De Sica. His prolific career spanned some four decades, and later saw him working with contemporary Italian filmmakers such as the Taviani brothers and Giuseppe Tornatore. He also worked with foreign filmmakers including Steven Soderbergh and the Greek director, Theo Angelopolis. He was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the Venice Film Festival in 1994.

"Tonino had a unique gift for creating images; he was not a technical screenwriter," director Marco Bellocchio told trade paper Variety. "Instead, he was a real artist with a fertile imagination and a genius for storytelling that is becoming ever more rare in the film world these days."

Among his credits: For Antonioni: L'AVVENTURA, LA NOTTE, L'ECLISSE, THE RED DESERT, BLOW-UP [Edward Bond did the English dialogue], ZABRISKIE POINT and those later films OBERWALD MYSTERY, IDENTIFICATION OF A WOMAN and BEYOND THE CLOUDS which I have been meaning to write about; Fellini's AMACORD, De Sica's MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE and SUNFLOWER; Theo Angelopoulos with LANDSCAPES IN THE MIST, Andrei Tarkovsky with NOSTALGHIA and Francesco Rosi with the militant politics of THE MATTEI AFFAIR, LUCKY LUCIANO and ILLUSTRIOUS CORPSES, as well as that Julie Christie oddity I keep meaning to re-see IN SEARCH OF GREGORY in '68, CARO MICHELE in '76 and the Tavianis' THE NIGHT OF SHOOTING STARS in '81. More on those Antonionis at Antonioni label.
As long-time Italian columnist John Francis Lane (who used to report the Italian film scene in those '60s "Films & Filming" magazines I liked so much) reports that Guerra fell in love with and married a Russian woman Lora, which led to his Russian phase as he commuted between Rome and Moscow, she survives him along with their film composer son Andrea Guerra.

As my pal Daryl Chin put it at IMDB: "His death confirms the passing of the classic era of Italian cinema".

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Samba Saravah

My French kick continues with a return visit to that charmer UN HOMME ET UNE FEMME, the big French success of 1966 - Pauline Kael had criticised it as a "date movie" as it was popular in a dubbed version as A MAN AND A WOMAN, but I simply loved it and Anouk Aimee as well, even if she had that annoying habit of fiddling with her hair and pushing it back all the time.

It is one of my favorite French movies with its photography changing from black-and-white to colors and to very beautiful sepia-tones. It was also director Claude Lelouch's biggest hit ( he served up more of the same the next year as VIVRE POUR VIVRE, a triangle with Montand, Girardot and Candice Bergen as more beautiful people living jetset lives). Here we have racing driver Jean-Louis Trintignant, and script girl Anouk Aimee, both widowed who meet when their children are at the same school in Deauville, so cue those soft focus scenes on the beach, the old man with his dog, the boardwalks, out on the boat as they hands gingerly touch, all set to the score by Francis Lai - what a best-seller that was, I used to play it all the time.

A lot of it seems improvised, like the restaurant scene with the children. Its certainly a new look at those upwardly mobile "getaway people" with their fast cars and boats, as featured in the then new colour supplements. Anouk is adorable here but it is hardly "acting" - despite being nominated for Best Actress that year (but we all knew it would be Elizabeth Taylor who won, deservingly this time) - she just had to fit in with Lelouch's cinematography looking cool in cars and boats and realising she cannot forget her dead husband - the hunky Pierre Barouh, who was her husband at the time (her marriage to Albert Finney was later), which leads to that great sequence I can watch over and over: the samba number "Samba Saravah" cut to the music, as we see Aimee and Barough horse-riding in the Camargue, she shampooing his hair etc as he sing sof his love for the Samba and those Brazilian poets who inspire him. Its a great sequence and on YouTube. Then we are back in the car and he finds out she still loves her dead husband ....

Lelouch did it all again in a western setting in 1977's ANOTHER MAN ANOTHER CHANCE which works quite well for me, with James Caan and Genevieve Bujold, as per my review at Bujold label, where it was amusing seeing horses and stagecoaches racing instead of racing cars. Lelouch also did a follow-up 20 years later A MAN AND A WOMAN 20 YEARS LATER which I have not seen but Anouk still looked marvellous while Trintignant had aged. I think I may rather want to stick with the original ...

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Two For The Road, 1967

A return visit to one of 1967's enchantments: Stanley Donen's TWO FOR THE ROAD, with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney making a great romantic team (off camera too it seems...), as they play out Frederick Raphael's witty script.

After Hepburn's '50s romances with those older men like Bogart, Fonda, Astaire she stepped into the new world of the swinging '60s for this trenchant comedy of marital manners. Ahead of its time in telling the story of her troubled marriage to architect Albert Finney in a non-linear fashion, the film embraces scenes from 12 years of road trips to the South of France. For once, Audrey got to play the bitter aftermath of youthful romance, as a woman who swears when angry and even cheats on her husband. In a big departure for the star, director Stanley Donen (working with Audrey again after FUNNY FACE and CHARADE) made her forego her usual couture wardobes by Givenchy in favor of the latest from such mod designers as Mary Quant and Paco Rabanne. The new look brought Hepburn into a more modern era and contributed to one of her best, and edgiest, performances, as we go back and forth through the years and in those different cars and time periods, right up to the mod swinging 1967 era, as captured by Schlesinger's DARLING and Antonioni's BLOW-UP.

Eleanor Bron and William Daniels are sterling support as the American friends they travel with one year, with their insufferable child, and young Jacqueline Bisset is there as well. It is still a witty charming treat as Raphael, who also scripted DARLING, reworks the fractured romance. Audrey had just done that other '60s treat, the delightful - if rarther overlong HOW TO STEAL A MILLION with that other English heart-throb of the era Peter O'Toole, set in Paris once again - at least half of Hepburn's movies have a French or Parisian setting, so this was of the same but more bittersweet. After this and WAIT UNTIL DARK Hepburn would be away from the screen until that lovely return in Lester's ROBIN AND MARIAN in 1976, when she enchanted us all over again ...

I could rhapsodise about Eleanor Bron at length here and in Donen's BEDAZZLED the next year in 1968 with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore - I love her deadpan Wimpy waitress with the eyeshadow, and of couse she was also ideal with The Beatles in HELP and in Ken Russell's WOMEN IN LOVE. I used to see her cycling around town frequently here in London, and she was once shopping next to me at Sainsbury's supermarket in Marylebone....more on BEDAZZLED in due course...