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.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Sixties night: Bailey & Blow-Up

Our enterprising Sky Arts 1 channel ran a Sixties themed night last night, starting with some pop promos of the early sixties, followed by The Stones in The Park documentary from 1969, and a guided tour of that new David Bailey STARDUST exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (see post below), where Bailey gave us and Tim Marlow a tour of the exhibition, as we examined various photographs, there are 250 in all. He talks about the ideas behind some of his most famous subjects (Salvador Dali, Kate Moss, David Bowie) and his early days as a photographer's assistant. There were contributions too from those who know Bailey best, among them Peter Blake, Tom Ford and Jerry Hall. This was fascinating in itself, but maybe now makes one feel one has seen the exhibition ...
This was followed by a screening of Antonioni's 1966 classic BLOW-UP, discusssed here many timed before, as per labels. Even though I don't know how many times I have seen it I simply have to sit there and let it all unfold again. I still love the first parts, with that park, and the central meeting with Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave as the mystery woman (thogh no-one in the film has names, they are usually referred to as Hemmings is Thomas, she is Jane, and Sarah Miles is Patricia), and the long sequence of blowing up the prints. I like the scenes with him driving around the developing city in his car too, with the painted streets and the greener than green park specially painted in Woolwich, and that elliptical dialogue with the girl in the antique shop, but then all the dialogue is elliptical.

Looking at it again now this is where it falls apart for me. A woman luring a man to a spot in a quiet London park where someone is hiding in the bushes with a gun to shoot him?, then the body being left there overnight - which our photographer sees when he visits, though it is gone the next morning .... how does she know who the photographer is and where he lives - as she turns up just at he arrives back at his studio - this was the pre-internet world when people did not have information at their fingertips (that two way radio system he has in his car is soooo antiquated now!), plus when they come back and raid his studio while he is out they take all the prints so they know he has discovered their plot. 
Then the sequence in the club where the zombie-like audience watch cult band The Yardbirds make out like The Who as Jeff Beck wrecks his guitar, its all cringe-making, as is that druggy party Thomas moves on to, in search of his agent who is out of it, as of course is model Verushka (who is in Paris), as we have Thomas waking up alone in that house. 
It is another Antonioni bleak dawn (as in L'AVVENTURA and LA NOTTE) as he goes back to the park and those annoying students arrive for that game of tennis .... so one can pick lots of holes in the narrative, but once those leaves start rustling in the park it all does not matter, its the mood it creates (as in the recent Woody Allen BLUE JASMINE, the plot there is full of holes too). Thomas's studio where he entertains Jane is still a very cool space, and those scenes around Chelsea and Kings Road and that restaurant are so nostalgic, as I lived there (18 Draycott Place) in the early '70s.
I still love BLOW-UP with a passion, it was the key movie of my early 20s when we all looked like David Hemmings up there on the screen. He looks like a decadent cherub sometimes but the pain and anguish is clear on his face at the end, before he literally vanishes from our sight, and that soundtrack by Herbie Hancock still resonates for me too. Of course the film has nothing to do with David Bailey as it was written and scripted from an entirely different source (even Terence Stamp is on record as thinking it was about him). But it was the film to see in 1967, when it opened in Europe. It was at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival, and according to my "Films & Filming" magazines, it went on general release to local cinemas on May 14, in a double bill with something called DOCTOR YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING, a Sandra Dee vehicle no less ! 
 Amusing too to see the advert for the general release about that time of an dubbed into English version of the hit A MAN AND A WOMAN, in a double bill with Tony Richardson's little seen THE SAILOR FROM GIBRALTAR. How did I miss that double bill ! I never got to see the Richardson until recently but loved the French version of UN HOMME ET UNE FEMME ... strange indeed were the release patterns of movies back in the Swinging Decade! That would have been an arty evening for suburban sophisticates at their local Odeon, let alone the latest Antonioni at their ABC !

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