Archive for January, 2009

The Mr “A” Messages

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2009 by dcairns

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So, back in December I stuck a clip on YouTube of the title sequence of Tony Richardson’s Marguerite Duras adaptation THE SAILOR FROM GIBRALTAR. I’d had the film on tape for about eight years without ever watching the film (that’s me, I’m afraid), but had looked at the titles and found them awesome, and I wanted to share.

Well, one of the people out there in YouTubeLand whom I was sharing them with, it turned out, was seminal sixties illustrator Alan Aldridge, designer of said sequence, who left a comment for me at my YouTube account ~

AA: “hi I designed these titles way back in 1965……..ive spent the last 35 years trying to get a copy……….then today voila I at least get to see small version…….Id really be grateful if you would get in touch and maybe I can make copy of your rusting vhs……..I live in LA……….e-mail your phone number and I’ll give you a call all the best , alan”

I was very delighted. And, being a mercenary type, I immediately proposed an interview in exchange for a DVD-R of the mouldering tape. Success!

I already knew a bit about Mr. Aldridge’s career, and boned up on him by reading other interviews. At the time of SAILOR, he had revolitionised the design of Penguin paperbacks with his stylish and punchy collage art and illustrations.

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Me: “How did you get the job on SAILOR FROM GIBRALTAR? Who did you meet from the movie? I see Tony Richardson actually appears in the sequence, how was he to deal with? What kind of discussions did you have? Did you work with Raoul Coutard, the cinematographer?”

AA: “Tony Richardson rang me and asked me to meet him at the Woodfall Films office in Mayfair.I also met ~Neil Hartley with him – they talked about me doing the titles for Sailor and briefly explained what the film was about.I also got a tape of the music which i thought was very beautiful. Tony Richardson is not in the title sequence…….I went off and did a storyboard and got it approved by Tony- then went to Bob Brookes a film director and he shot the sequences…..which took a lot of time. for instance for the last shot of a mans profile as an island they had to biuld a pool in studio. get a model to lay down in the water then the model boat was pulled by on rails.”

The chap at the end, appearing under the director’s credit, does look a little like Tony Richardson, or am I deluded? Oh well, it’s not him…

Me: “Obvious standard question: what were your influences for this sequence? Or, what was the brief?”

AA: “I had no influence…..just did series of interesting visuals”

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Reading stories about Alan’s beginnings as an artist, this really does seem to be the case: his talent blossomed, seemingly from nowhere, and without conscious influence, although he must have been soaking up something that was in the air, in order to so effectively capture the zeitgeist of the sixties.

Me: “The internet isn’t very informative about title sequences (according to the IMDb, Richard Williams has only done about four, which we KNOW isn’t right). So I’m wondering if there are any other Aldridge titles out there?”

AA: “Never did any other titles.”

A great shame!

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Me: “The other big movie connection I have for you is the CHELSEA GIRLS poster. How did that come about?”

AA: “Chelsea Girls was done for the Arts Lab in London – they were premiering ChelseaGirls and Warhol had asked them if they could get me to do the design..he would later say- he wished the film was as good as the poster.”

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Me: “It would be great to hear something about your current plans, the exhibition, movies, etc.”

AA: “I’m working on two film projects- one about Edgar Allan Poe the other John Lennon.”

Looking at Alan’s art, I think the prospect of either of those projects coming to fruition is mouthwatering. Hope they both do.

To finish, I asked about this Pink Floyd music video — my late friend Lawrie Knight, who was involved in its production, had told me that he invited Aldridge to design it.

AA: “Yeah I think I did some storyboards..not sure they were ever used – they were thought to be too expensive to do and too difficult.”

 I sent him the link so he could look at it and see whether the finished work had his influence.

AA: “well the ballet dancers are definately not mine…maybe some of the trippy backgrounds.alan”

So now we know, and by now Alan hopefully has his complimentary copy of THE SAILOR FROM GIBRALTAR — at last!

 

Alan’s just had an exhibition at the Design Museum, and his new book The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes, is available.

Mister “A”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on January 30, 2009 by dcairns

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The new FORGOTTEN is up! Leave comments over there at THE AUTEURS’ NOTEBOOK. Slight delay this week due to my editor having been midatlantic (in an aeroplane, not drowning).

This is a film I’ll have even more to say about soon, in a little Shadowplay Interview. Remember how I was able to supply a copy of Jules Dassin’s 10.30PM SUMMER to its former child star, who had never seen it?

I’ve kind of done that again. I feel like a song ~

World’s Worst

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2009 by dcairns

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I joined Twitter 11 months ago, and thought it was time I actually did something there, so I asked everybody for their worst cinema experiences, figuring I could compile that into a simple blog post quickly, and it might be amusing. Then I put the same request on Facebook, so I could test which is better.

Facebook wins!

Via Twitter, regular Shadowplayer and cartoonist Douglas Noble writes,“Dundonian EXORCIST audience, no heating, film snaps, advice yelled to screen, stair-fall exodus. I think I’ve mentioned it before.” I picture the audience’s breath misting in the projector beam.

Whereas, touchingly, Elver Loho, one of the very first Shadowplayers EVER, Twittered back, “Worst cinema experience? Don’t think I’ve ever had a truly bad one.” If that’s true I’m moving to Estonia.

Now, the FaceBook landslide.

Mandy Lee, inventor of the Human Swastika, chimed in with the following lament: “THE CRUCIBLE in a multiplex. About halfway through, the film went on fire and started bubbling and melting on the screen – it was creepy and at first no-one really knew if it was a special effect or not, then we got evacuated. Sort of fitting though, bearing in mind the subject matter.” I’m picturing Philippe Noiret ablaze in the projection booth. I’ve seen that happen with THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY at Edinburgh University Film Society. Slightly alarming.

Musician Daniel Prendeville: “A Saturday night sitting behind Paddy Twomey in the Astor Cinema, trying to watch THE LAST WALTZ, while the sleeping Paddy, all 6’5″ of him, shifted in his seat, obscuring my view for the entire film.

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Baris Azman: “One was with THE STRAIGHT STORY, which I saw in an arthouse theatre, where there were tons of old ladies in the theatre. Two behind me and my friends literally commented on almost every thing that happened during the film. “Oh my what happened?”, “Oh my, the lawnmower broke down. Oh my, he’s getting off. Oh my, there’s a truck …  coming.” And on and on and on, ’till I finally turned around and asked them to be quiet, we can all SEE what is happening. They then proceeded to call me “rude”.

The other one was where PULP FICTION was screened in a theatre in 2005, finally I was able to watch it on the big screen, finally after all those years. I’m enjoying the hell out of myself ’till there is a reel change somewhere around the scene where they have to clean up the mess they made with Marvin and what happens… the next reel us not only upside down, but in reverse. The projectionist had spliced one of the reels backwards.

We got our money back, but it screened only once.”

Michal Oleszczyk: “A very recent screening of QUANTUM OF SOLACE, with a group of teenage girls giggling at each Craig’s line (I’m still wondering what dirty double entendres did they get that missed me).” Sounds like an enhanced experience to me.

Filmmaker Timo Langer sympathises: “I have a simular one to Michal…Watched RUN LOLA RUN in Germany next to a guy which commented almost every exciting scene if not cut with the word “Phat”…the cool word at the time as I remember.”

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Celebrity guest Lara Belmont, star of Tim Roth’s THE WAR ZONE, volunteers: “THE THIN RED LINE, you know you’re in trouble when the nature shots are the only reason to stay, and even they end up driving you out of the cinema.”As a devout Malickite, I can’t agree, but I can understand. There are a lot of leaves in that film, and some of them have more screen time than George Clooney. 

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Regular Shadowplayer Chris Schneider: “Well, there was always the midnight screening of David Cronenberg’s SHIVERS where the crowd was beery and numskulled and, when a face came onscreen who vaguely resembled Henry Kissinger, a male voice called out “Looks like a Jew!” … causing me to think “That’s my cue to leave.”” The Kissingeralike would be Joe Silver, also seen in RHINOCEROS, I think.

Brilliantly, filmmaker May Miles Thomas had an unpleasant run-in with the same film: “Years ago I went with my boyfriend to see SHIVERS at the Lyceum, Govan. Unfortunately boyfriend arrived stoned. Ten minutes in, he excused himself and never returned. I was about to leave when the usherette (50s, bespectacled) came up to me in a panic. I ran to the foyer and found boyfriend with his head embedded in a plasterboard wall. ‘Too scary for him’, opined the usherette. He claimed to have fainted on the way to the toilets.” Why this movie? Is there something strange about SHIVERS? Surely not.

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Brian Robinson: “AMERICAN PSYCHO – “Hee hee hee”, said the apparently disabled (but not physically so) man to my immediate right as Christian Bale slapped around two prostitutes during a bout of rough sex. And then his hand slipped into his trousers and I frantically searched for a way to get away without actually passing him. “Hee hee hee”.” Brrr.

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Two from Mary Gordon: “Watching KUNDUN at the Lumiere with the house lights up and remonstrating with the museum staff that Mr Scorsese mde it to be seen in the dark; watching an EIFF documentary, Armenian, no dialogue and someone behind me with a runing commentary with what was happening on screen (came close to being banged up in Cornton Vale that day).”

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Shadowplay informant Danny Carr: “Watching THE WIZARD OF OZ while a friend snogged my ex-girlfriend a row behind me. The film was tainted for years to come!” Ouch.

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Harriet Hunter: “Going to see WOLF CREEK and speding most of it trying to hide under the seat and wispering ‘I can’t watch this,I can’t watch this’,yet still watching It with one eye closed…not a great experience for the friend I was with.” Still, I’d say that was appropriate behaviour at a horror movie. Extreme, but appropriate.

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My producer, Nigel Smith: “My first cinema experience was part of a schoolfriend’s birthday party. What sort of parents would take a bunch of excitable six year olds to see Tommy Steele in HALF A SIXPENCE? That’s tantamount to abuse.” It is pretty bad, I remember that film. It’s quite hard to take on TV. On the big screen it would be like getting your brain opened with a Mantle retractor.

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But Mary suggests something worse: “Easy — WATERSHIP DOWN: I spent years after that checking for Nazi rabbits under my bed…”

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Filmmaker Johannes Roberts: “A teenage audience laughing everytime John Carpenter cut to a close up of a sweaty close up of the fat Baldwin culminating in a prolonged groan for his close up kiss with Sheryl Lee, in VAMPIRES.” I don’t know, that sounds like an enhancement.

Also debatable, Chris B’s use of refreshments: “Ahoy, I went to see ELOGE DE L’AMOUR at the cinema back in 2001/2002, a film that had falsely been advertised as a romantic comedy in the Julia Roberts vein (only, avec subtitles). The first odd occurrence in this rather yuppy district was a young man called his mother before the film began (which is ok) to tell her that he was watching a Godard film; clearly he felt some kind of superiority in this triumphant choice of screening and had to call his mum to join in on the celebration.

The film began and the audience, allowing it some leeway despite not being prepared for the film they expected, became a little restless; the guy sat behind me even said to his complaining girlfriend that “this is interesting, let’s give it some more time”, but she was having none of that and, maybe being a French film’n’all, must’ve felt that in order to “fill the void” that the film was leaving, became horny and began the process of fellatio. I must say, I was fairly familiar with ELOGE having owned and rewatched the DVD countless times prior to the 35mm announcement; so, and despite Godard’s eclectic and whimsical play with soundtrack, I knew that the wet slapping sound emerging from behind me was not part of the Dolby Digital output. This continued for some time until oral did not suffice and a move to full-on penetration would be the order of the day, albeit discretely(?). Well, as much as I enjoy people enjoying themselves, they were encroaching upon MY cinema experience and something had to be done. I waited until the first credit appeared (the film plays out until the very end); exited the room to buy a couple of large Cokes (with ice, please); returned; and threw my purchases all over the couple who were in no position to begin pursuit of the perpetrator! Was this a bad movie experience? I’m not sure thinking about it.”

As for me, I recall being physically threatened by an oddly aggressive stoner sitting behind me at a screening of BY THE BLUEST OF SEAS, which didn’t seem so funny, and there was a very weird screening of THE IDIOTS at Cannes where Fiona and I found ourselves crawling along some kind of balustrade to get to our seats (the festival had kept us waiting outside until the film started), not quite a science fiction film AIR VENT, but close, and then when we reached our seats we could dimly hear the simultaneous English translation whispering from the armrests, but couldn’t find any way to ACCESS it, so ended up watching the film in Danish with French subs, which actually improved it. If you can understand what they’re saying, that sure isn’t a very good movie.

I think the John Cleese movie CLOCKWISE was the worst, though. It just seemed like the death of everything precious in cinema.

This, of course, is your cue to offer up YOUR experiences.
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