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.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Days of future passed ...

..... no, not The Moody Blues - but musings on re-watching some sci-fi, fantasy and Roman history: 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY, LORD OF THE RINGS and I CLAUDIUS, all true epics - among the usual big movies on show over Easter - they always dig out LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, BEN-HUR and good to see BARABBAS on view again later today, its one I missed at the time and is surprisingly involving with a good De Laurentiis cast (Silvana Mangano naturally, but not for long) and that real eclipse of the sun ....

Back to outer space: coming across the brochure for the initial release of 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY the other day (left)  reminded me what an event this was, in Cinerama. My hippie pals of the time, 1968,  went to it repeatedly, and were on acid .... it seemed to be compulstory at the time ... I have of course seen it several times since. I even had a large plastic advertisement sheet (like right) which was used in a display at the WH Smith store in Kingsway, London at the time (as a friend of mine worked there at the time, thanks Joe) which would have been worth quite a bit if I had put it into one of those movie poster auctions Christies do, but when I unrolled it a few years ago it crumbled to pieces as the plastic had all cracked! The perils of keeping things too long ... ! 

The film is still magical to me (I am now going to get it in Blu-ray), I don't think any other space movie looks more believable, no other movie has such amazing visuals for its time, which is incredible when one realises it is almost 50 years old, and its 2001 date is already 12 years in the past .... so this is what the future looked like in 1968? Kubrick shot the moon scenes before the Apollo landing - It's pre-digital but has the most powerful imagery ever and has aged very little as we gaze at those space ships and modules docking and landing on distant planets, as the hostesses defy gravity.
and that amazing essential soundtrack. Kubrick succeeds in making us feel afraid by exploring the magnitude of space and the loneliness of it. Fascinating too is that voyage to Jupiter with Bowman (Dullea) and Poole (Lockwood), and the hibernating crew. One man alone in deep space, being so far away from home is a nightmare concept, especially when the controlling computer HAL reveals his own agenda ... No other movie leaves itself open to discussion like 2001. It is truly meant to be a surreal journey from that dawn of time to the magical cut of the bone and the spaceship ... It is a grand tale, that never dates, full of major human questions. I remember Arthur C Clarke's book was a stunning read too. Kubrick of course did the same with the 18th Century in the langours of BARRY LYNDON which seems a major achievement now too.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy is being repeated too, nice to return to them again, is it really a decade since they burst on the screen? I am not one for special effects or CGI movies - like TROY or KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, which like other CGI spectacles loook empty, fake and hollow. At least with the real epics like EL CID, CLEOPATRA, FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE etc - there may be some fakery and matt effects used, but mainly they look "real" - all those people and sets are usually there. The LOTR trio are an exception though, the special effects mesh seamlessly with the actors and the stunning scenery of New Zealand. It is just brilliantly done, like at the start Gandalf being so big in Bilbo Baggins' delighful home in that idealised Shire. Then there is Mount Doom and Mordar and Rivendell which all look so right. The aged Christopher Lee is amazing as Sauron taking on Gandalf. 
I remember seeing Ian McKellen being mobbed when out clubbing back around 2002 or 2003 - but he was very polite chatting to people, and I had a chat with him myself when I found myself next to him at the bar. As I said everyone wanted to talk about LOTR but I had got his GODS AND MONSTERS dvd that week, so we had a comment on that. He was at the Crash nightclub later that night too ... I can't though for the life of me see how that they (Peter Jackson) can make another trilogy from the 200 page THE HOBBIT ! That original hefty paperback tome of LOTR was an essential read during those late 60s years, when back with my hippie friends (Clive and others) - It took me months to read mine, on the train to and from work each day. This was the era of "International Times", the start of "Time Out", when Gandalf was popular in London with Gandalf's Garden, Middle Earth and other underground clubs, The Roundhouse (where we saw theThe Doors & Jefferson Airplane all-nighter, among others.... the films are a delicious wallow in all that once again. I find the second one rather a slog, with perhaps too much Gollum, but it all comes together perfectly in THE RETURN OF THE KING.

Back to Ancient Rome with the BBC '70s production of I, CLAUDIUS, being repeated once again, I have the dvd but would probably never watch it again, so ideal to record the weekly episodes and re-live it again that way. It has that overlit look of '70s television, unlike today's more natural lighting, but one can forgive it that, when the drama is this good. 
Once again we marvel at Derek Jacobi as Claudius, Sian Phillips as Livia ("don't eat the figs"), John Hurt's demonic Caligula, Margaret Tyzack, Brian Blessed, Patrick Stewart, Ian Ogilvy and so many others ...the sets may be small but it captures the Robert Graves story perfectly and takes its time ... bliss all round then.

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