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Showing posts with label New Empress Magazine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Empress Magazine. Show all posts

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Flashback : Louis Malle and Zazie dans le Métro [originally appeared for New Empress Magazine]

This review of Zazie dans le Métro (1960) first appeared for New Empress Magazine

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

An edited version of this review of Zazie dans le Métro (1960) appeared as an on-line Flashback item for New Empress Magazine* [in February 2012]

Thanks to John Davies and his event at The Cinema Museum (@CinemaMuseum), I now know a bit about the directorial career of Louis Malle (including some clips), and have seen Zazie.

As the book Malle on Malle (one in a series by Faber in which someone in the film business, in this case Philip French, has conversations with a director about the films then made) gives a synopsis, although I think that there are mistakes of detail, I shall not give my own, not least also because the film – probably like the book that it realizes – defies meaningful summary.

Zazie was released in 1960, and so is exactly contemporary with Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, a film so badly received that it virtually destroyed his career. Both film-makers were saying something new and true, but Malle, although also controversial and with a delight in addressing taboos, did not seem, here, to have ambushed his future film-making.

The film, like its title character (Catherine Demongeot), has enormous energy (Zazie’s wakeful activity is coupled with the capacity to sleep through Armageddon), and filming this novel may have appealed to Malle because of that very vivacity (and undaunted irreverence), as well as because it had been thought impossible: nothing better than a challenge for Malle !

Zazie has few illusions, though she is, naturally, entranced by blue jeans and by the idea of the Métro (which is closed, because of a strike, until the very end – French says that she enjoys her ride, but I believe that she was still asleep). She starts the film by decrying, in no uncertain terms, the taxi that Uncle Gabriel (her mother’s brother, played by Philippe Noiret) has waiting for them – not just because, in true slapstick fashion, it’s full to the brink with other hopeful passengers – and tries to run off into the Métro.

She knows what she wants, and she doesn’t want to be fussed over by Gabriel or his landlord, taking in her stride her mother’s leaving her in his care so that she can go off for the duration with her lover. (Somehow, Zazie doesn’t appear to have been to Paris before, perhaps accounted for by the lover’s newness.) In search of a good time, she courts danger with impunity, treating everything as a game, and she partly has the freedom for her adventures courtesy of falsely implicating the landlord (a scene cleverly mirrored later, when the mysterious Trescallion tells the same gathered company stories about her).

The exuberance of the film, fuelled by Zazie even when asleep on the hoof (leaning on a car’s wing) and throwing bombs at Trescallion in a car-chase, no doubt mirrors that of the novel. The overall impact is crazy and, although Malle said that it went off the rails in the last third, it is almost impossible to know where that happened. The scenes up the Eiffel Tower are truly vertiginous, with access that may have been usual at that time or special to the film.

The scenes on the streets of Paris are, if one stops to think of it, reminiscent of the Keystone Kops, but Malle reclaims that insane energy in a way that makes it seem wholly new, wholly unnerving. That feeds into the final onslaught in the restaurant, where, without explanation, it is the waiters against the diners, and no holds are barred… (but Zazie sleeps).

End-notes :

* Now no longer with us...

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Henry James in Poland ? (Part II)

This is a follow-on from a Festival review of Ida (2013)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

23 November (updated 25 November)

* Contains spoilers *

This is a follow-on from a Festival review of Ida (2013)

Some reviewers have made claims for the strength of the film’s cinematography*, and comment has already been made (in Part I) about how the monochrome makes the convent look and feel. Outside that setting, one hoped for uses of the medium that would match the power and rare presence of the landscapes in Nebraska (2013), but there are very few moments of such cinematic beauty (all of which feature trees, and two movement), and instead the film-makers choose to alter the aspect ratio, as if to suggest moments of ‘widening out’** :

* A misty rank of trees on the sky-line

* Leaves (which appear to have been added by CGI) falling in an avenue (which we come back to)

* Trees to the side of the moving car, which, through persistence of vision, create a pattern

In Nebraska, as in Frances Ha (2012) for that matter (and despite some banal critical assertions made about both films and other uses of monochrome), its use here felt integral to the project. In Ida, except when she is framed on a diagonal, or fellow novices and she are decorating Jesus (on a plinth) and then – through the snow (more CGI ?) – carry not so much their cross as his***, nothing remarkable is going on with the composition (one hoped for it - it was not there).

As to what the images in the heart of this film denote, unearthing past events – not least in the Nazi period (when motives and actions had necessarily been mixed) – is almost bound to be compelling (please see below), and doing so is with Wanda to the fore, again necessarily. Three times (before the cock crows three times ?), Ida absents herself from the scene of her aunt’s apparent endeavours on her behalf (we go with her) :

* To the cow-shed (with the parental stained glass) (during the interrogation)

* To bed in her habit (rather than go down to the jazz with Wanda – Wanda, Ida somehow thinks (so she says), cannot really be there to find out what happened, if she wants to dance)

* To the street (when Wanda starts breaking into the flat (of Szymon Skiba ?))

Discovering the fate of her own sister, Róża Lebenstein, is possibly too close to home and so what Wanda has been assiduously avoiding in the years when she was acted as a prosecutor and since : however Wanda survived the war, Ida’s own Jewishness seems to have either been disregarded or overlooked by her peers (although Mother Superior and the authorities must have known all along, if they now know Wanda ?), so maybe Wanda’s asserting that it is not there was part of her life, and has become essential to it.

After all, her first impulse is to greet her niece coolly with I know who you are, with facts about her history (We were from Lublin), and to brush Ida off quickly, after what she insultingly describes as ‘our little family reunion’. If the film really gave us space to contemplate Wanda’s position, her attitude to the past, and what it means to her, it would be good to feel that that one really could do so alongside Ida’s exploration of her equivalent of The Old World and its ways, which she can barely know.

When, for example, Wanda is asked on their travels Who are you ?, and replies I used to be someone once, it is not even as if, self-pityingly or otherwise, her response is really allowed to hang in the air. Yes, it is Wanda’s style to utter things casually and then act as if she did not say them, but, here, nothing stems from her comment, nothing depends on it, and, having had her say it, it is as if she makes (perfectly psychologically) as if the hurt is healed over :

Since we seem influenced to concentrate so much on Ida, since she lost the parents whom she was thus never to know (not only a sibling), and, just until now, her fate resulted from what happened to them (as Wanda’s patently did not). Granted, the film is in translation, and a Polish viewer might gain a different impression.

Even so, the film - named after Ida, after all - seems to have the flaw (unless that can be seen as a strength, of some sort ?) of placing us in alignment so often with her point of view (see above for the three points where we leave Wanda, going with Ida). In the shot in question, we are far more with Ida at the wayside shrine (than with Wanda in the car), looking – in those Jamesian terms – out from The New World at what is happening. These are not the casual religious observances that travellers on the road might make out of habit or ritual, but part of her life and / or identity.

As to Wanda's more uncertain identity, we learn that she is Wanda Gruz (Red Wanda is her nickname) and that she used to be a State prosecutor (so, until we learn that she is a judge, it is unclear what panel she still sits on, when we momentarily see her), and now her status still gets her released (after a delay, when they realize that, as she says, she is a judge) from an incident of drink driving that takes the car off the road. To try to find out the truth about her sister, she is aggressive, and threatens I can destroy you, whereas, when with Ida, she makes idle references (which will not be understood) such as to Gone with the Wind.

Then again, Peter Bradshaw, in his review for The Guardian, suggests that he knows more (but where, even if it is in the press-pack, is this information in the film ? - such layers of bogus description, posing as interpretation (if not vice versa), just obscure what is to be seen or heard) :

In @PeterBradshaw1's review of Ida (2013), he says that Wanda 'owing to misdemeanours, is reduced to [...] judging petty quarrels' - script?

[...] Wanda Gruz, tremendously played Agata Kulesza: a worldly hard-drinking woman who lives on her own, and who is evidently something of an embarrassment to the authorities.

Wanda was once a high-flying state prosecutor and former zealot of the communist state who, owing to misdemeanours, is reduced to being a magistrate, judging petty quarrels between neighbours. [...]

That said, despite having determined that dancing is inconsistent with searching for (the truth about) her parents (the arbitrary law of the excluded middle), we still cannot much identify with whatever hang-ups Ida has about going down to listen to the music with Wanda – and the film, even in its own terms, then wants to have Ida assimilating jazz (by osmosis through Wanda's comment about the sax in the car ?) when she has never heard it before (irrespective of who is on alto).

Fortunately, the tune played, when Ida’s curiosity gets the better of her, is the Coltrane of ‘Naima’ (as she is told – his ‘Equinox’ is also used****), not Ascension, from three years later ! As to the authenticity, in Eastern Bloc Poland, of jazzers travelling around the countryside to gigs, one does wonder…

At its touching core, at the burial-place, we have Wanda and Ida united (just for now, anyway) : they have passed through trees that we are almost sure that we saw on their journey, one with headscarf, the other with the head-dress of her habit. All of which has been rooted in the ground of temptation, family-feeling, and discovering what people did in the recent past (but have so soon concealed, forgotten). Undeniable, powerful material, but does it sit that well with (let alone with Wanda's deeper motivations and thoughts) an exploration of the territory of The Last Temptation of Christ, taking as its seeming starting point this exchange (quoted in >Part I) [the last utterance is paraphrased] :

Wanda : Have you had impure thoughts ?

Ida: Yes.

Wanda : Carnal ?

Ida : No.

Wanda : That’s a shame. (Slight pause.) How do you know what you are giving up ?

Henry James writ large enough, but in a story that wants to yoke together not only a dichotomy of The New World / The Old World, but also guilt and retribution, what one did in the time of war and why, the lure of the alto sax, and even what makes life worth living. Realistically, too many calls on a run-time of around 80 minutes ?


* For example, Linsey Satterthwaite for New Empress Magazine :

Ida […] is also one of the most stunningly shot films to emerge this year, very much to the credit of cinematographers Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal. Director Pawel Pawlikowski presents a masterclass in black and white imagery; each scene is assembled with mesmeric precision. Every shot looks like a piece of art, as Ida explores the outside world anew concealed in her habit, it is like a Vermeer painting has come to life.

Well, yes, the cutting between the different scenes, contexts and lighting conditions makes for an interesting montage of Ida, determinedly pressing on towards we know not what (though not art - and nothing but her head-dress to invoke Tracy Chevallier's wretched Girl with a Pearl Earring : as to whether she has anything to 'explore' is doubtful, since she is just crossing rural terrain, back-roads and the like).

Everything else being equal, it would seem like a good place to part from her, leaving us at last in doubt about what she intends, after a couple of all-too-human minor reversals of action - yet is it now a cop-out, suggesting that more has emotionally been captured in Ida than bears rational examination ?

Would we even think such things, if this were not 'evocative' monochrome ? Just compare this with the resolution and conclusion found with Bruce Dern in Nebraska...

** The format is variable, between nigh square to rectangular.

*** Even here, the symbolism felt a little heavy handed, let alone when we explored our Jamesian dichotomy (please see Part I) of ‘being in, but not of, the world’. Compare this with the limitation of an entirely static camera in all but three of the fourteen scenes of Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg), which might sound wholly artificial and sterile as an idea. However, the effect of this limitation was very and surprisingly full – quite apart from the riches of the script and performances.

**** As are, prominently, Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 (‘Jupiter’) and Bach’s Chorale Prelude Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 639 (from Das Orgelbüchlein) – beloved of Tarkovsky ?

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Monday, 17 June 2013

How Time views After Hours (1985)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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1 June

This story had to be told - one way or another, although it was written for New Empress Magazine's issue (number 10), with the theme of Time in cinema, it resisted inclusion.

Finished, it would have looked at Eraserhead (1977) and seen whether Brazil and After Hours (1985) were both indebted to Lynch, but had gone in different directions with it (a bit like particles flying out from a sub-atomic collision)...

In late 1983, there proved not to be the sustainable will – or, with it, the money – for Martin Scorsese to make The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), which he had also insisted had to be shot in Israel (adding to the cost). As he says in Scorsese on Scorsese (Faber & Faber, London, 1996 (updated version)), he sublimated his rage at the studio for thinking Christ ‘not worth the trouble’ (as Barry Diller at Paramount told him, apologizing for not saying before that they were pulling the plug) : he looked around for another film to make.

Not being able to see himself make either, Scorsese turned down Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and Witness (1985), and so ended up, again, in the world of independent film with After Hours and, ultimately, with Fassbinder’s cameraman, Michael Ballhaus. Before then, a few things happened on the way…

In New York, Scorsese got to see a script that he liked. It was owned (i.e. they had the film option) by Griffin Dunne (Dunne played Paul Hackett, the male lead) and Amy Robinson (who had appeared in Mean Streets (1973), and was, with Dunne, a co-producer of After Hours). In his own words, Scorsese started reading it and really liked the first two or three pages. I liked the dialogue […].

This is where things got interesting, because Scorsese had apparently been told that it had been written by Joseph Minion in a class at Columbia University (and been given an A in the Graduate Film Program), whereas that seems not to have been the whole story.

Even I, as a fourteen-year-old, learnt the basic rules of plagiarism : even if others had not also decided to lift material for their essay from the introduction to our edition of Julius Caesar, which made ‘the borrowing’ obvious, one could not simply pass off something as one’s own, and had to cover one’s tracks. (Either that, or acknowledge one’s sources, of course*.)

In this case, as blogger Andrew Hearst reveals (linked from the film’s Wikipedia page), there was a radio monologue called Lies, written, performed and broadcast by one Joe Frank for NPR Playhouse in 1982. On Hearst’s blog, it can be heard in full, and runs to around 11 minutes, providing the broad synopsis for around the first one-third of After Hours.

One might just about be able to listen to it and not be spot the relation to After Hours if one had not seen it recently: were it not, that is, that bagel-and-cream-cheese paperweights made of plaster of Paris are a bit of a give-away (even if a five-dollar bill flying out of the cash-cradle, and through the window, of a taxi and leaving Hackett without cash is not already). Where I cannot agree with Hearst, because what he writes does not take account of how screenplays get written and end up in production, is what he makes of the evidence.

Hearst writes ‘Minion’s IMDb credits are pretty thin after the early 1990s, so his career seems to have been really hurt by this, no surprise’. It is, of course, an easy assumption to make, but do we know that Minion was credited with the screenplay as the (willing ?) fall guy for someone else’s theft of the plot, because there appears to be nothing against which to check the story about the screenplay and the Columbia course ?

The real mystery is that anyone would attempt to pass off Lies in the guise of After Hours without changing some very significant details, some of the more obvious of which have been mentioned. Is it, so we are being encouraged to understand Minion, that we have to imagine him inexperienced and greedy, and so getting himself a bad name by miring the picture in the litigation that Hearst talks about ?

I have not looked for evidence of the court case, not just because it is so long ago (and I would not know where to look), but also since, if there had been an out-of-court settlement, only the fact of the case’s existence, which we probably suppose, would have been apparent. Scorsese, of course, makes no mention of the issue in interview, and even the injured Frank, according to Hearst, was being reticent to name the film that paid him off.

All that we have to hope is that he got a good settlement, because, comparing his performance and the film, it is all there, right down to the characterization of Rosanna Arquette (as Marcy), whom Hearst described as ‘interested and indifferent at the same time’. As for what happened to Minion, there seems to be a bigger elephant in the room than that :

Dunne makes a perfectly good, nervy Hackett, and the film gets good ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, but, looking at Dunne’s career and judging it from IMDb’s page for him, he seems to have achieved more as director and producer than the rather bitty parts and t.v. work on the other side of the camera.

Yes, things happen - or do not happen - in a career quite unfairly, and maybe After Hours, as the Rotten Tomatoes figures show, had the critical appraisal, but insufficient popular appeal, to allow Dunne to move on from there.

Or maybe there was no moving on from a persecution-complex character such as Hackett, hounded by highly organized vigilantes within hours of visiting the area, giving off signals of being attractive to women, but dangerous, and ending the film dusty and dazed back at the office where he began it.

The all-too-often quoted opening words of ‘Burnt Norton’ from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets – which lose significance out of context – have a place here, in looking at what, if I am not mistaken, is a film directed by Scorsese that made too little impact on its release :

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.

I have not seen Dunne in anything else, but I am grateful to him for wanting to get this film made and being Paul Hackett, and I am sure that others will be for what he has produced or directed since.


* Which I do not think that the film credits do with an even bigger theft, that of a story by Franz Kafka that he incorporated into the scene in the Cathedral in his unfinished novel The Trial (Der Prozess), where Josef K. is told a parable about the law, Vor dem Gesetz (Before the Law). The story is lifted straight into the film in the context of the bouncers to the club that Hackett needs to enter, and it feeds into the film's uneasy quality of persecution, witch-hunt and - although Dunne is not Jewish - maybe anti-Semitism.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The quartet that wasn't

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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15 January

By way of explanation : I offered to write a review of Quartet (2012), since I had already written about it here, for the on-line content of New Empress Magazine (@NewEmpress), and I was asked to provide it by the end of the week.

Although I had no doubt what I wanted to say, limiting oneself to 350 words is not always liberating, but sometimes disabling of one's inspiration. However, I pressed on, and submitted well in advance, though I forgot to give a rating (1 to 5 'Torches of Truth' [sic]).

Remembering the rating had not been provided, I said 3, but then got back a request from the acting On-Line Editor (Martyn Conterio) to revise the 3, because the review had been negative*. As I said in replying, I do not like a 5-point scale, but said, in that case, 2, because 2.5 was probably nearer the truth (although 3 suited me).

I was then told in a most perfunctory way that my review would not appear**, but here it is...

Ronald Harwood’s play Quartet premiered thirteen years ago. Many will gather that the film, too, centres on achieving a performance of a four-part Verdi aria (a pièce de résistance in Rigoletto, Act 3), the retired singers being Pauline Collins, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, and Billy Connolly.

So far so good (or maybe raised eyebrows about plausibility, e.g. Connolly a tenor, and Collins as mezzo ?), but why mention the play, when it’s Sir Ronald’s own screenplay ? Simply because it is such a different beast that I believe that Harwood has virtually destroyed it to produce a film of lesser interest.

The play’s cast is just the four singers, so we only hear, say, of Jean Horton’s (Dame Maggie’s) rival, Anne Langley. A film cannot easily do that (Anne is played here by singer Dame Gwyneth Jones), and the cinematic medium cannot reproduce dialogue. However, the casualty is losing the sparse effectiveness,
seeing anyone else.

Instead, real interiors, peopled by people such as resident impresario Michael Gambon, in full loudmouth mode, and Sheridan Smith, an unlikely managerial role. For me, the play’s intimacy is overdiluted by staff and residents, and what remains is an imaginary portrait of a musicians’ retirement home –
the four, of whom only Jean looks like she might really have sung opera.

So why did Harwood bother reworking
for cinema ? Our readers will know that a gala screening, followed by a Q&A, took place last month, in which he participated: not unusually, the evening’s host absorbed most of the available time, and no one even asked Harwood why he wrote the screenplay.

Well, Giuseppe Verdi was born on 10 October 1813, which Radio 3 is already marking by broadcasting all his operas in 2013. The film is from BBC Films. So no tie-in there, then !

Call me cynical, but the facts – and seeing the play transferred to the screen – make me wonder whether Harwood’s heart was in the work, or it was a job that paid. Promoting films is tacky, but the tag-line ‘Four friends looking for a little harmony’ is appalling !




* 'I'm not quite sure about the reasoning behind the 3 Torches rating given it's a fairly negative review. Can you revise.'

** 'Given the current schedule and with the Quartet competition ending tomorrow, I am unable to use your Quartet review. Thank you for submitting. I cannot be drawn into any reasons for my decision, above those mentioned, and I hope you accept my apology.'

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Passing through Pimlico

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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6 June

* Contains a wealth of spoilers *

Although I cannot think of a time (perhaps six months?) when I did not know the title of Passport to Pimlico (1949), and convince myself that it must have been on t.v. in my youth (although I was expecting Peter Sellers to be in the cast-list, because I was also thinking of I'm All Right, Jack (1959)), a screening yesterday convinces me that I did not really know the film at all. (And I had little conception of where Pimlico was until 30 years ago and an initiation to what, before it became Tate Britian, was The Tate Gallery.)

Not, at any rate, beyond the basic tenet - implied by the title - that Pimlico (actually, just a small part of it) becomes a separate domain. What follows is informed both by seeing it (again?), and by a review at New Empress Magazine, the work of one Ben Sheppard.

As you might have gathered from reading Ben’s review (if you have done so), Passport is not the best of the so-called Ealing comedies, and it is a little patchy: it would be interesting to research into how it was edited into its circulated form, whether Pimlico was merely chosen for euphony (and, in any case, what the name derives from, which has to be more plausible than the alleged origins of Elephant and Castle!), and how the idea was first hit upon. Maybe some day…

Essentially, the scope of the film episodically, dictated by the to and fro between the residents, the British Cabinet Ministers, and all those, such as the spivs, who would exploit the situation, divides into (in no particular order) the actions of :

* The bullish, even belligerent*, Arthur Pemberton (Stanley Holloway), fronting and furthering this series of stand-offs and stalemates between HM Government and the occupants of what appears to be part of Burgundy

* His daughter Connie (Betty Warren) as a siren, initially yielding to the fishmonger, but finding herself preferring the attentions of the Duke of Burgundy (Paul Dupuis)

* Margaret Rutherford, who, with convincingly scatty eccentricity as Professor Hatton-Jones, propounds the territorial claim, and then, at a key moment, approves the rather unlikely Duke's credentials

* The fishmonger's female employee, whose attentions he has overlooked in favour of buttering up Connie, and who (by leaving the tap on before the water-supply, which has been cut off, comes back on floods the pub basement) loses Pimlico its stockpile of provisions

* The character of Edie Randall (Hermione Baddeley) as a lady of lingerie

* The bank manager, Mr Wix (Raymond Huntley), as the Nick Leeson of his time, and, with Pemberton, part of the brains behind the outfit (although not often in agreement about the tactics)

Much is good value, with a sense of exhilaration when, for example, the Pimlico crew halt and board an Underground train that they have climbed down to intercept passing beneath their territory, or when the local constable (Philip Stainton) creeps out and reinstates the water, whilst Connie and others lure the attention of guards on the barbed-wire boundaries.

As Ben rightly says, the Berlin air-lift, which began midway before the year of release (and ended almost 11 months later), must have been a major source for the idea, and there is quite an uneasy feeling to the comedy in places, when, for all the tricks that the Burgundians try (the blockade is busted by air-drops, including a pig on a parachute), the aim of Whitehall is wilfully to starve them into submission.

By contrast with a better Ealing film from the same year, Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), where the idea of a man taking revenge on and systematically murdering his mother's snobbish relatives (who had either cut her off when she married for love, or stood by when it happened) is deliciously wicked and cleverly executed, this tense and awkward feeling means that one cannot really enjoy the stand-off in Passport to Pimlico and how the game plays out, because it is just that little bit too close to home to seem like sheer fun.


* Or, in its genuine meaning, ‘feisty’.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A hiatus

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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4 April

If there were anyone (other than The Agent) who looked at this blog most days, he or she would have noticed no new postings in a fortnight*.

Well, that has been a surprise to The Agent as well, but that is how things have fallen out - although it is also possible that some items in draft, which (despite not being public) keep their place from when started, were completed since then.

But who can rightly say? Sooner quote Ecclesiastes - which some have heretically identified as a foundation text for The Goons - and go one's way...


* That said, there is evidence of The Agent's activities at New Empress Magazine.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

DVD release: Misrepresentation (2009)

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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25 February

For more on why what follows was written, go to the web-site of New Empress Magazine:

Myself (in a sideways take on this), I’d watch out for a DVD issue of a film called Misrepresentation (2009).

You won’t happen to remember it being on general release, which is strange, because it is said to star (amongst others) Johnny Depp and Lady Gaga, so you are fascinated.

When, having bought it (in said state of fascination), you finally take it out of the pile of DVDs like mine that you know, if you’re being honest, you’ve got of films that you ‘haven’t quite yet’ caught up with, you won’t be disappointed:

You’ll actually prefer what you see, because it’s that winning team of Hepburn and Grant in Charade (1963).

So, enjoy it, and just thank the kind distributor for your not having to witness the film – if it had been made – that would otherwise be on your screen!

(By the way, more such oddities – sometimes, amid genuine reviews – on the blog at Unofficial Cambridge Film Festival)

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The latest on Dimensions

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24 February

New Empress Magazine's on-line content has beaten me to posting the news that Dimensions (2011) has won a prestigious award, which I had first by e-mail from Ant Neely (with the following image).

NEM's coverage is available at:

Helen Cox, who wrote the item, has - understandably - a soft spot for the film, and may even have seen it as many times as I, since, at NEM's third quiz night - as ever in Bermondsey - there was a screening laid on for the first fifty to sign up as participants (because Shortwave Cinema only seats fifty-two).

She mentions two festivals, but Ant told me a while back that there is a third - looking back, I see that, then, he asked me not to mention it, so I'm not doing so...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Forty-five years in film (2)

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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22 December

I still haven't looked to see whether unnaturally or not, but the version that I thought was going to press turned out to have to be truncated, and that is really all that I know as yet, with one of the three illustrations being out, too.

Still, I shall commend the New Empress Magazine's 2011 Year Book, as there is much else in it - available from NEM web-site's ordering-system or, although the navigation's tricky, via, and possibly via the ISSN (but it's not on this issue)...

Monday, 31 October 2011

Quiz night in Bermondsey

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31 October

For some obscure reason, I had known of this part of London for years, but I really did not know where it was.

I was quite surprised that it turned out to be near Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, and that incomplete pointy building, highly visible from Tate Modern. (I think, perhaps, I had been confusing Bermondsey with Bethnal Green in some corner of my mind, although, rationally, I knew that that was Bethnal Green (and, therefore, not Bermondsey), and so placing it north of central London.)

Near the hospital, and on the way from the Tate to the venue of New Empress Magazine’s first quiz night at – and in association with – Shortwave Cinema, I turned out to pass the pointy building (I wonder if there is there some connection other than its proximity). The hoarding told me that it’s properly called London Bridge Quarter, but what I now know to be The Shard of Glass still looked no nearer completion: maybe the money’s run out, or ‘quarter’ (or 'shard': shards are like that, unlike shreds!) relates to the unfinished pinnacle…

What beckoned all the while was a film quiz, courtesy of Helen Cox, editor in chief of NEM (which I now know to be named after a cinema in Nottingham, which closed in 1927), and compered by comedian (and film buff) Adrian Mackinder (it may not be spelt quite that way...), with the general assistance of film-maker Phil Bowman (sure a Sagittarius, and a devotee of the works of Beaumont and Fletcher). (In one round, various combinations of the three valiantly acted out dialogue from various films for us to identify, if we'd ever seen them.)

On getting there, it was straightaway apparent from the question papers (why are they often called that when they are answer-sheets?), since I know no film with a shark in it (except perhaps a cartoon like Marine Boy, who was always terribly, maybe – except for the title – unnecessarily aquatic in his tastes), that the picture round wasn’t going to be where (if at all) I could shine.

Which was a shame, because, as a free radical, I had accosted and oxidized the team of Betty, Ulli and Stephanie (I never did - try to - discover any connection between them, and maybe they just met when they all got off at the nearby bus-stop), just at that vulnerable moment when they had brought chairs in from outside and hadn’t yet ordered drinks, and Betty had stipulated that I could join them, provided that I was a film geek. (OK, I lied…)

They had agreed to take me in as an orphan, and I accordingly owed them my share of points in the final score (if that’s not soccer, rather than quiz nights). However, little did any of us probably realize that an early inspiration regarding that page of shark-laden images was our best chance of winning anything…

All in all, what I guessed at, rather than knew, was that the film that had been banned and is being remade is Straw Dogs; that the MGM lion had had five incarnations; and that Douglas Fairbanks was one of the four founders of United Artists; but, I think nothing else, and none of these (except that the Dustin Hoffman film had been banned) was any more than luck.

(Oh, and I ought to have said that, in the round with clips from music that had run over unnamed films’ closing credits, I thought that one was from The Matrix, but, as is the way with a quiz, another team member had another answer, and I felt meek. I also recognized the vocalist in the next clip as Freddie Mercury, and, I suppose, although that did not help me to the name of the film, I could have shared that with the team.)

All in all, my participation led to a gain for the Sleeping Beauties (Stephanie had preferred that name to my impulsive first suggestion of The Geeks, and it was adopted by default) of two-and-a-half points, as one of us also named Charlie Chaplin as a UA founder, and so we got credit for two out of four. (No one had seen the film from which I derived the name, but someone had spotted the poster: unfairly, I suggested that, in my opinion, this was the best thing about the film.) Those points – no pun intended – actually counted, as we would otherwise not have been nudged ahead as fifth overall.

During the time allowed for finishing off our second-half answers, no one objected to me doodling, by filling in the blanks of the picture round with unrelated titles such as Citizen Kane, Hannah and Her Sisters, and even, nautically enough, 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea (although I probably wrote 1,000).

Admittedly, I was taking what I had been taught to extremes, but I knew not to leave a blank where a well-educated guess (Hannah and Her Sisters? the scene where Michael Caine first makes a move on his sister-in-law?) might give a chance of a point: of course, this became the norm with the advent of examination papers with multiple-choice answers – why is it even called multiple choice, when you can usually choose only one answer, and, with ordinary questions, there is a infinite choice?

Apart from these meaningless answers, my first reaction to seeing the depiction of a large tooth-filled mouth lunging at a bridge had been to say Sophie’s Choice, so I stuck with that answer, as I still liked it (despite telling poor Stephanie, who did not seem to connect with it). I think that the premise must have been that the water level had risen, amongst other devastating effects, and thus that the bridge – or those on it – were within striking distance…

When I helped with marking tests at GCSE (more multiple choice, but thankfully long ago!), I just memorized the string of intended responses, and did not really register the content of incorrect ones. Fortunately, Helen had not only clearly read the answers minutely, but found the intended humour in my choice for that image, because that was the basis on which we won a prize, a copy of the – now rare – first issue of New Empress Magazine.

So, as my team members ceded it to me, double the reading of NEM for me (I had bought the latest issue on the night), and very good and varied it is, too!

Oh, and a further prize was talking to Rob, who owns Shortwave, and the jewel of seeing the auditorium - as I told him, I was reminded of The Electric Picture Palace in my beloved Southwold.