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.

Monday, 22 May 2017

A week of lists: 30+ albums to love

"The Sunday Times" had another of their fascinating lists yesterday: 100 albums to love,. I suppose I could run to 100, but here’s the top of my list ….
  • Marvin Gaye  - LETS GET IT ON (for "Distant Lover")
  • Stevie Wonder – INNERVISIONS
  • Aretha Franklin – LADY SOUL (for "Good To Me As I Am To You" with Eric Clapton)
  • Dusty SpringfieldDUSTY IN MEMPHIS
  • Joni Mitchell – BLUE / COURT AND SPARK / WILD THINGS RUN FAST
  • Carole King – TAPESTRY
  • Joan Armatrading – BACK TO THE NIGHT
  • The Beatles – ABBEY ROAD
  • The Rolling Stones – LET IT BLEED
  • The Band – MUSIC FROM BIG PINK (this one takes me back to my hippie years in the late Sixties)
  • Talking Heads – STOP MAKING SENSE
  • Roxy Music – FLESH & BLOOD
  • Nina Simone – NINA AT TOWN HALL
  • Pet Shop Boys – ACTUALLY
  • Billie Ray Martin – DEADLINE FOR MY MEMORIES ("Running Around Town")
  • Fleetwood Mac – RUMOURS
  • Supertramp – BREAKFAST IN AMERICA
  • Pink Floyd – WISH YOU WERE HERE
  • Massive Attack – BLUE LINES
  • Frank Ocean CHANNEL ORANGE
  • Bob Dylan – BLOOD ON THE TRACKS
  • Tim Buckley – GREETINGS FROM L.A.
  • The Doors – STRANGE DAYS
  • Grace Jones – NIGHTCLUBBING / LIVING MY LIFE
  • Roberta Flack – FIRST TAKE
  • Donny Hathaway – DONNY HATHAWAY (for that killer version of "A Song For You")
  • Blondie – PARALLEL LINES
  • Neil Young – HARVEST (for "Old Man")
  • George Michael – OLDER (THE essential gay album)
  • Paul Simon - STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS 
  • Stevie Winwood - ARC OF A DIVER
  • Elton John - TUMBLEWEED CONNECTION.
and
  • Barbra Streisand – THE SECOND BARBRA STREISAND ALBUM
No room for my essential dance music: A Man Called Adam, Groove Armada, Global Underground, Murk, Danny Tenaglia, Space Ibiza etc. 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Bright shiny Sixties people

Fab pic of some groovy 60s people: theres Susannah York, Joe Orton, Tom Courtenay, Twiggy and more ..... must find out who the others are. 

The photo is by the Earl of Lichfield, and the others are Miranda Chiu, Michael Fish, Lucy Fleming and Peter S. Cook. Thanks, Colin. 

Compared to What ?

The first track on Roberta Flack's first album back in the early 70s. We liked Roberta a lot then, she was up there with Aretha Franklin and I saw them both twice, at the old Odeon Hammersmith in those years, Roberta's album has several other stunners well worth a listen now: "Angelitos Negros", "Trying Times", "Ballad of the Sad Young Men", "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" etc. 

The wild side ....

We like a good catfight and here is a doozy, from another of our Guilty Pleasures: the 1962 campfest that is WALK ON THE WILD SIDE, as Stanwyck's lesbian madam lets haughty Capucine have it, We love Barbara and Cap here at The Projector and they go to town with this. I will have to see the whole movie again soon for a good wallow. It is a certified Trash Classic and a Bad Movie We Love, up there with VALLEY OF THE DOLLS etc. More Bad Movies We Love soon .....

Here is what we said about it a few years ago:
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE – Harvey again in another lulu from 1962 and one of the best trash classics ever, as directed by Edward Dmytryk with that pounding Elmer Bernstein score and that great credit sequence with the prowling cat. (Jazzman Jimmy Smith also had a hit with this theme). Laurence Harvey, as expressionless as ever, hunts for his lost love Capucine in the bordellos of New Orleans in the 1930s, from the well-known novel by Nelson Algren. The movie is quite tame though but the cast are fascinating: young Jane Fonda as Kitty Twist, on the road with Harvey and later in the cat house owned by Barbara Stanwyck who wants haughty sculptress Capucine for herself. There is something fascinating about Capucine, I just like watching her. Anne Baxter has a supporting role here as Teresina, the Italian cafĂ© owner, who would like Harvey to stay on with her. It all comes to a steaming climax at Stanwyck’s cathouse … one to savour then.

An old favourite: Dance of the Vampires or ....

Roman Polanski's 1967 spoof DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES or THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS is still an absolute delight - and should really be seen on a large screen as it's widescreen images are just marvellous - I particularly like that moment when Polanski (he plays Alfred the bumbling rather dim-witted assistant to Professor Abronsius himself) is fleeing from Count Von Krolock's son ("a sensitive youth" as his father, the leader of the vampires, says) and he - Polanski - runs all around the four sides of the castle cloisters to return to the point he started from where the vampire son [Iain Quarrier] is waiting for him .... delirious stuff.

This was Polanski still in English movie mode, after REPULSION and CUL-DE-SAC before heading to America and ROSEMARY'S BABY, so it was made with his usual collaborators, writer Gerard Brach and composer Krystof Komeda. Veteran actor Jack McGowran is the dotty professor hunting for vampires in Transylvania with his assistant Alfred. They stay at an inn where everyone is superstitious and afraid of vampires. Alfred gets to meet and fall for the inn-keeper's daughter Sarah (Sharon Tate, quite lovely here) who has also come to the attention of the mysterious Count whose eerie castle is outside the village. Sarah is addicted to taking baths and during one the Count enters and takes her away. Alfred and the Professor follow but not before the inn-keeper (who is Jewish, played by Alfie Bass) also falls victim to the vampire, as does his busty barmaid/mistress Fiona Lewis.
This is all spendidly realised with great sets for the inn and the castle. They find the resting places of the count and his son but it too late as the sun goes down ... Count Von Krolock materialises and has his own plans for the Professor and Alfred who can provide some intellectually stimulating company for them during those long winter nights as the centuries pass by. The son Herbert takes a shine to Alfred and there is that delicious scene as Alfred sitting on the bed as Herbert gets closer realises his is the only reflection in the mirror ... hence that chase around the castle. So we have a Jewish vampire and a gay vampire, both hilariously done, and Ferdy Mayne is a perfect arch vampire.
Sarah will be initiated into the vampires during the great ball held once a year and there is that great moment as ancient tombs open as the rather decrepit vampires emerge for their ball. The ball is a delight with everyone dancing but the large mirror only shows Alfred, Abronsius and Sarah .... they manage to get away as the vampires give chase in some very funny scenes and the ending is quite nice, while Komeda's score is just right.... It is all just a perfect delight from start to finish and one I can relish any time - a key Polanski movie too, before those later darker movies like his MACBETH and CHINATOWN or THE TENANT, or his recent THE GHOST (WRITER)Back in '69 or '70 when I was living around Chelsea I turned from Sloane Square into Kings Road and there was Polanski in front of me talking to someone - you could never mistake him for anyone else!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Marie Antoinette, 2006

MARIE ANTOINETTE Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film holds up well after a ten year gap in viewing. Is it marketed for a teen audience or does it depict Marie as an impressionable teen which today’s teens can relate to? The production is sumptuous as the teenage Marie leaves Austria to travel to France when still only 14 to marry Louis XVI and become queen at 19. We spend a lot of time with the teen Marie Antoinette (and Kirsten Dunst is perfect in the role) as she gets used to the lavish court and the rituals she has to abide by. It starts rather like Von Sternberg's 1934 THE SCARLETT EMPRESS with that other more knowing teenager heading off to become Catherine The Great ....

Later the birth of her children when in her 30s after she finally gets her husband to consummate the marriage is all glossed over rather quickly. The mob only appear once at the climax as she bows to the will of the people and we end with her and her family in a carriage, as the sun sets, on their way to their destiny.. The cast is quite good – nice to see Marianne Faithfull (if only briefly) as her mother Maria Theresa, and comedian Steve Coogan as the advisor, Rip Torn as the older king and Jason Schwartzmann as the diffident husband, plus Judy Davis, Rose Byrne and Tom Hardy. We also get to see a lot of the opulent and eccentric court at Versailles as Marie matures. Other characters like the Princess Lamballe and Count Fersen are rather glossed over.

The modern (well, 80s) music by the likes of Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow and The Cure has caused a lot of comment (there are 854 reviews on IMDB alone! - as one puts it: "Gidget goes to Versailles and when she gets there, she gets bored, gossips, reads Rousseau, and has beach-blanket pot parties and wild balls in Amadeus outfits".) but for me it suits the images – even the shot of the trainers among the shoes – as these are the bored teens of their time, as they indulge in clothes, shoes, cakes and champagne.
We do not see enough of the mature queen or her trial where she defended herself, but this obviously was not part of Coppola’s plan – she also scripted from the well-regarded Antonia Fraser biography. Fraser expressed pleasure with the end result but then what historian would not like a lavish film to be made from their historical tome?
So really it is all about Marie Antoinette as a sweet, utterly conventional and finally boring teenage girl acting out the fantasy of becoming a queen without realising the implications that follow … certainly a fascinating contrast to the equally opulent MGM film of 1938 with Norma Shearer's majestic performance. There will always be a market for doomed queens, whether Marie Antoinette, Mary Queen of Scots or Elizabeth (Sissi) of Austria - Marie's story though is hard to beat - and it looks marvellous of course, as good as anything in BARRY LYNDON (which set the benchmark for period films).

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The ultimate Joni guide

Nice to find a specialist Joni Mitchell magazine when shopping at the local out of town major superstore, one of the UNCUT magazine specials on major music artists. 

This is a terrific on on our major favourite, Joni, to add to the collection. It cover all the albums - 20 plus - in detail, with lots of info and comment and fitting in Joni's remarkable career too, from the mid 60s onward, including all the rarities, the art, the dvds, etc, 

It just makes one want to go back and play them all again,   Lot of Joni of course at label, including (yes, Martin, once again), the time I met her in Kings Road, Chelsea in London in 1972, when we were both in our twenties, and walked along having a great conversation with her, 

Not the best Joni song, but we love this late 80s video with Joni dancing around the kitchen, doing the dishes and playing with her cat. 

Pour le weekend

Our French favourites: Deneuve, Dorleac, Adjani & Huppert, Aimee, Audran, Hardy, Laforet .... plenty on them at labels! 




Friday, 12 May 2017

Bus Riley's Back In Town

Let's dust off a "Guilty Pleasure" and have another look at the late Michael Parks (RIP label) debut in 1965 ... its deliriously entertaining and was a great suporting feature then. Here is what I wrote a few years ago:

We are in familiar territory as BUS RILEY'S BACK IN TOWN begins in 1965: a greyhound bus pulls in and a marine in white gets out and looks around his old town - its Bus Riley back after 3 years in the navy and trying to settle back into small town life and look for a suitable job.
It is familiar William Inge territory but this is William Inge-lite without all the heavy drama of PICNICALL FALL DOWNSPLENDOUR IN THE GRASSTHE STRIPPER etc - Bus (Michael Parks) is a good-natured chap who does not think too deeply about things and is soon happy back with lovable mother (Jocelyn Brando), adoring younger sister (Kim Darby), sniping older sister (Mimsy Farmer) and local girl Janet Margolin who has to move in with them and who is so obviously the girl for Bus. There is also a very William Inge spinster teacher who gets the vapours at the sight of Bus in his underwear and comes down with a migraine at the thought of a man in the house, so she soon departs.
There is also that mortician acquaintance who can fix Bus up with a job - but, as he places his hand on Bus's knee and thigh, tells Bus how lonely he is and wants Bus to move in with him and his mother (Hitchcock's BIRDS expert and BILLY LIAR's grandmother) Ethel Griffies. Bus sighs wearily and instead settles for being a door to door salesman and is soon a hit with those lonely housewives (cue Alice Pearce as a rather dotty one). Then there is Laurel - Ann-Margret of course top-billed here and the posters are all about her, as Bus's old girlfriend who has married money while he was away and drives around town in her swish car looking for him. He resists her at first but she soon has him in her pool as her husband is away a lot and she wants Bus back big time.

Its a pleasant time waster catching the mid-'60s in transition and a rather nice view of small town American life. Laurel gets her just deserts as Bus realises she would never have married him as he was not rich enough and once he is told what a great car mechanic he was by a satisfied client his destiny beckons. Nicely directed by Harvey Hart it is one of Michael Park's better outings; like Christopher Jones he was tagged with the 'new James Dean' label but the mannerisms are kept in check here - he went on to be the naked Adam in Huston's BIBLE in '66 and 67's THE HAPPENING with a young Faye Dunaway, who was obviously going places too...
Parks was later terrific and suitably scuzzy in Tarantino's KILL BILL epics. 

Back to 1957 with ....

When I was 11 in 1957, a favourite movie magazine - one of the American fan ones - was maybe called "Screen Stories", featuring stories and photos from the current movies. This particular issue featured RAINTREE COUNTY, THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR, LOVING YOU, FUNNY FACE and others -- I can still visualise it. This week two of these re-surfaced, the Marilyn and the Elizabeth saga. Of the two I think Marilyn came out the winner.
Both had been working hard throughout the early Fifties, Liz having four movies out in 1954, but once GIANT catapulted her into the  major league, she slowed down to one prestige film a year .... as did Marilyn, who had formed her own production company with Milton H Greene, after moving to New York and was seeking more important projects, than the fluff 20th Century Fox saw her in. Terence Rattigan's play, THE SLEEPING PRINCE, seemed the ideal choice, with Laurence Olivier directing and co-starring, and a good British cast, filmed in England in 1956. We have covered that in detail before here, particularly when the film MY WEEK WITH MARILYN came out. Looking at it again now it is utter delight.

It is a totally different Marilyn from her Fox movies, ace cameraman Jack Cardiff photographs her lovingly, she had never looked better and proves herself a delightful comedienne, holding her own with Olivier, whose sly portrayal is a joy too. Marilyn in that skintight white dress, with the white choker necklace, and the nice period detail. 
Good to see Richard Wattis in a good role for once, and Marilyn with Jean Kent, Maxine Audley, Gladys Henson, Vera Day and with that forgotten actor Jeremy Spenser as the young prince,  (All covered at labels). Of course the production was notoriously difficult with Marilyn's delays and insecurities, but none of it shows on the screen. Its a pleasure to sink into any time. 




RAINTREE COUNTY on the other hand is now a colossal bore and did Taylor no favours. Her damaged southern belle is no Scarlett O'Hara, and the film is a plod through the usual Civil War dramatics. 
Eva Marie Saint is wasted, but we get lots of the young Lee Marvin, Rod Taylor, Nigel Patrick. Montgomery Clift seems to stumble through it, We wonder which scenes were before and after his car accident. He and Taylor though did look great in Bob Willoughby's photos from the set, and seemed to be enjoying themselves, The film was never given the full dvd release initially, as though MGM did not want to bother with it. At least Liz had those Tennessee Williams roles lined up next: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, while Marilyn went back to Billy Wilder and the immortal SOME LIKE IT HOT. Liz may have been the dramatic actress, but Marilyn could sing, do comedy and musicals, as well as dramatics, and seems to have endured better.
Monroe and Taylor would be in contention again five years later in 1962 when CLEOPATRA and MM's SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE where making the headlines .... 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Longest Day, 1962

THE LONGEST DAY was one of the big ones in that great year 1962. I was 16 at the time but did not see it then, though have seen bits of it over the years, so it was finally interesting to sit down and see it properly. It it is of course 20th Century Fox's retelling, in crisp black and white, of the Normandy landing in 1944 done in an almost documentary style. This was producer Darryl F Zanuck's brainchild, and it is quite impressive. covering the events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view.

The British had spent the 1950s re-fighting World War Two with all those films (DUNKIRK, THE CRUEL SEA,  THE DAM BUSTERSTHE SEA SHALL NOT HAVE THEM, SEA OF SAND, ICE COLD IN ALEX, REACH FOR THE SKY etc etc) keeping the likes of John Mills, Richard Todd, Kenneth More, Bogarde, Attenborough, Baker etc busy), then the all-star spectacular started arriving in the '60s, a mere 18 years after those D-Day battles, starting with THE LONGEST DAY and followed in 1963 by Carl Foreman's equally starry but downbeat THE VICTORS showing how war degrades everybody, then MGM's all-star OPERATION CROSSBOW and Rene Clement's French all-star IS PARIS BURNING? (roping in the likes of Delon, Belmondo, Montand, Signoret, Welles and visiting Americans), then the later THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN, OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR and A BRIDGE TOO FAR, as well as all the gung-ho actioners.

THE LONGEST DAY from Cornelius Ryan's book is a bit bitty, introducing us to all those guest stars for a moment or two, then we return to them later to see how they fare in the events ... the military are led by John Wayne, Mitchum, Robert Ryan and Henry Fonda looks in, and the personnel include all the young actors on the lot: Jeff Hunter, Robert Wagner, Fabian, Richard Beymer, Tom Tryon, Ray Danton etc. The British get  look in too: Welsh boys Richard Burton (on a break from CLEOPATRA) and Donald Houston, John Gregson as the padre, Todd and More, Sean Connery etc. The Germans are led by weary Curt Jurgens who cannot wake up The Fuhrer as he has taken a sleeping pill, and the French resistance seem to be led by Irina Demick (Zanuck's ladyfriend of the time). At least the German scenes are in German, and directed by German Bernhard Wicki. Ken Annakin and Andrew Morton handle the rest of the action sequences. It was a big achievement at the time, but rather unsatisfactory as there are no main characters to identify with, as we dash around seeing what all the guest stars are up to ...as the three hour running time zips by, The beach landings are not as graphic as SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Effi Briest, 1974

I had been meaning to catch Fassbinder's 1974 drama EFFI BRIEST - but pal Martin has been raving about it, part of the Fassbinder season on MUBI - Martin is a devotee of this site, so I just had to get the bluray of this stunning and engrossing drama.     .

We like Rainer Werner Fassbinder's early Seventies films here, they were must-sees in arty London circles then, along with the New German Cinema of Wim Wenders and Herzog. I liked Fassinder best: THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT, FEAR EATS THE SOUL and the very downer but essential gay classic FOX AND HIS FRIENDS (see Fassbinder label), and the later more bizarrely explicit QUERELLE, his last film, and the mess the out of control director made of DESPAIR with Dirk Bogarde, in 1978. 
In the nineteenth century, seventeen year old Effi Briest is married to the older Baron von Instetten and moves into a house in a small isolated Baltic town. She soon bears a daughter,  Effi is lonely when her husband is away on business, so she spends time riding and walking along the shore with Major Crampas. Instetten is promoted to Ministerial Councillor and the family moves to Berlin, where Effi enjoys the social life. Six years later, the Baron is given letters from Crampas to Effi that convince him that they had an affair. He feels obliged to challenge Crampas to a duel and banish Effi from the house.

Like HEDDA GABLER or A DOLL'S HOUSE or ANNA KARENINA or MADME BOVARY this is a searing indictment of women's lives and powerlessness once married to possessive husbands in the restrictive 19th Century. The lesser-known novel by Fontane was a favourite of Fassbinder's and he does it justice with stunning black and white photography and those white fade-outs. Hanna Schygulla is of course tremendous as Effi, and the cast also features Karlheinz Boehm, who also crops up in FOX AND HIS FRIENDS, 

I like EFFIE BRIEST a lot, it should be a better known Fassbinder, and is essential "Women's Cinema" for everyone. It is a film of marvellously controlled images, and vivid imagination, with all those mirror shots. Its a great costume movie too, and I like its leisured, stately pace, almost like a 1950s Ingmar Bergman film. Perhaps that's what Fassbinder intended ... it has a melancholy ending, with a perfect long last shot. 

We will now have to check out his other films. several with Schygulla: THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN, LOLA, LILI MARLEEN, VERONIKA VOSS ...  Schygulla of course was also in PETRA VON KANT, and I remember her in a very vivid 1989 Mexican film by gay Jaime Humberto Hermosillo: MISS FORBES.  She has clocked up 98 credits and is still working now - one of those essential European actresses like Liv Ullmann, Thulin or Moreau, Deneuve, Huppert .... 

Julie, Julie

Julie (and the other one) in the Swinging Sixties... some rare shots we have not seen before,
That 1966 Royal Film Performance of BORN FREE, with Julie, Leslie Caron, Warren Beatty, Catherine Deneuve, Ursula Andress, Raquel Welch, Christopher Lee all lined-up. Perhaps the first time Warren met Julie .....

Saturday, 6 May 2017

RIP, continued

Daliah Lavi (1940-2017), aged 76.  Daliah was one of the glamorous 1960s stars who brightened up many a 60s caper or comedy. Israeli Daliah impressed me a lot as 'The Girl' opposite Peter O'Toole in LORD JIM in 1965, and was one of the girls with Woody in the 1967 CASINO ROYALE, and with Dean Martin in THE SILENCERS. She had an early role opposite Kirk Douglas in Minnelli's 1962 drama TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN, one we like, but we liked her most of all in the deliriously silly 1965 version of Agatha Christie's TEN LITTLE INDIANS, with that helmet of hair, she and Fabian, not to mention Britian's glamour girl Shirley Eaton, added to some sparkle to this.
Daliah was a star in Europe before she went into American films. My movie buff friend Martin, speaking from his ivory tower, would say "she was not a great star or a great actress", but you know what Martin, some people don't need to be, they just are perfect as they were - Daliah was up there with Ursula Andress, Belinda Lee, Scilla Gabel, Senta Berger, Elke Summer, Marisa Mell and the rest of the Eurobabes from those spy spoofs and exotic thrillers (NOBODY RUNS FOREVER, THE SPY WITH A COLD NOSE etc). She sang too and had hit records in Europe, served in the Israeli army, married four times and had 4 children, and worked until 1997, and was fluent in Hebrew, English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. Quite a gal.

Michael Parks |(1940-2017) aged 77. Another Sixties icon who developed a long interesting career, starting off a a James Dean type (BUS RILEY IS BACK IN TOWN -we like it a lot -, THE IDOL), as the naked Adam in Huston's THE BIBLE in 1966, and in THE HAPPENING, lots of television, and later work with Tarantino in the KILL BILL films, TWIN PEAKS etc. and kept working to the end.

Following the recent demises of Tomas Milian and Christine Kaufmann (RIP label), a lot of those European players my generation grew up are departing the scene ....