Archive for Alan Parker

Guney Toons

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , on August 31, 2012 by dcairns

From an old 1983 issue of Sight & Sound ~

“Don’t feel so bad, Ylmaz, they say that film you’re directing at the moment is going very well.”

To make sense of this, you have to know that Kurdish filmmaker Ylmaz Guney was credited with directing a film while serving a sentence as a political prisoner. Of course, well-meaning liberal middle-class people found this very moving and admirable. The cartoonist, wickedly, is just amused by the absurdity of pretending to direct a film while being banged up in the stripy hole.

I always felt that the artist knew he was kind of being an asshole about this, and that’s what contributed to my indecent amusement at the cartoon. But the more I know of the cartoonist, the less sure I am that he was aware. Certainly, as the director of MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, he should have been aware that a Turkish prison sentence is no laughing matter.

Welcome to the cartoons of Alan Parker.

The first reference in this one is Guney again, the second is Werner Herzog, the third I don’t know and the fourth is either (a) every Coppola film, ever, or (b) I don’t know.

Again, the real target is middle-class arthouse filmgoers. I dunno, maybe there aren’t enough cartoons about middle-class arthouse filmgoers. Parker seems to regard them as a worthy target for his satirical pen.

But I thought you’d find this one most interesting of all. “THE FILM CRITIC, FROM THE DIRECTOR’S POINT OF VIEW” probably would be published today, in anything but a tabloid.

“I can only describe it as trying to run a four minute mile with an alcoholic poodle snapping at your ankles and with the ever present fear that David Robinson and Alexander Walker will jump on you in the showers.”

Somewhat homophobic, Alan. I’m also unsure why it’s so INCOHERENT. The title tells us one thing, but the subject of the speech by the baggy man isn’t “the film critic,” it’s “the act of directing a film.” I half-suspect the incoherence is deliberate, a way to divert attention away from the more poisonous elements of the cartoon. “FROM THE DIRECTOR’S POINT OF VIEW” certainly tries to cast the whole thing in a subjective, and yet impersonal light (it’s not Parker himself’s point of view, necessarily, you see).

“Homophobia” is a particularly apt word here, since fear rather than hatred is very obviously at the heart of the text. Parker fears being bummed alive in the showers, yes, but he also fears, in a less symbolic way, being reviewed by gay men who may see things differently from him and not appreciate his directorial choices in PINK FLOYD’S THE WALL or BUGSY MALONE. Does he also fear being reviewed by women, Indians, or anybody who isn’t a baggy, angry man from Islington? Maybe so.

But the confusion goes deeper. The “alcoholic poodles” are presumably meant to be film critics, but then two real human critics turn up to anally violate Alan Parker in the showers, which he fears yet somehow also craves (I’m interpreting freely). “Alcoholic” is simply fair comment on a lot of newsprint critics and journalists, especially at that time, and “poodle” seems like an apt description of the late Alexander Walker in particular: angular, petulant, white-haired and bouffant. But how can he be simultaneously a snapping poodle and a shower rapist? I can’t really fit both images of Alexander Walker together into a single concept of him. Unless Alan Parker wants me to imagine his wet, quivering body being anally violated in the showers by a giant, man-sized poodle with Alexander Walker’s face, sinking its sharp little teeth into his pink, fleshy shoulder, as Ken Russell tries vainly to repel it with a rolled-up copy of the Evening Standard. And why would Alan Parker want me to visualize that?

If you’re reading this, Alan Parker, get in touch and explain.

Yours,

Concerned.

The Sunday Intertitle: The Greenaway Way

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2010 by dcairns

(More of a subtitle, really, from 26 BATHROOMS.)

Peter Greenaway stared at the multiplex with his perpetual air of being offended by a smell. “Of course, in ten years, this will all be gone,” he mused.

The above scene, described to me four or five years ago by a member of staff from Edinburgh Film Festival, hints that perhaps Greenaway is not the world’s greatest prophet, although only time will tell. I guess only time will tell if he’s going to kill himself at aged 80, like Ruth Gordon in HAROLD AND MAUDE, as he promised to do in the Guardian this week. But the quote that really excited my interest comes from his piece in Saturday’s Independent, talking about his new film, NIGHTWATCHING, which deals with Rembrandt’s painting The Night Watch.

“In the film we very deliberately skirted the trap of showing Rembrandt paint the masterpiece; no one would believe us – any possible suspension of disbelief would entirely collapse. Martin Freeman was not bad at handling a brush with some conviction, but nobody would ever believe he could paint a Rembrandt.”

What throws me for a loop here is the suggestion that Greenaway is remotely interested in suspending our disbelief, something that never even occurred to me before. It seems flatly contradicted by his statements that “the only thing we never believe in films is sex and death” and that sex and death are the only subjects worth talking about in films. I remember being impressed by his statement that he generally avoided camera movement because it increased audience involvement, and thinking that I would bloody well move the camera in order to involve the audience. The reality is a bit more complex than Greenaway’s statement, but then it always is. “He’s a man of bold, spurious statements,” my friend at the Film Fest said.

I don’t have much time for the man, I must admit, though I wouldn’t go so far as Mr. Alan Parker, who once threatened (or offered?) to take his children to be educated in America if Peter Greenaway made another film here. Those two chumps deserve each other.

(I can, in fact, see a case for both filmmakers, but I’m equally out of sympathy with both also. Greenaway started his feature career with a genuinely unusual work, THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT, unlike anything else in British cinema and made on a near-shoestring. Unfortunately, he has followed it with more of the same, until the eye aches at the repetition. A similar repetition mars Parker’s altogether different cinema. The Greenaway I like best is the above-illustrated 26 BATHROOMS, a little documentary on an alphabetical theme. Because each bathroom corresponds to a letter, it’s very easy to tell how far along we are in the film, which is only half an hour long anyway. Also, filming in confined spaces prevents Greenaway from making every shot flat and symmetrical, and using real people speaking their own words rather than actors speaking Greenaways results in a welcome change from the glib marionettes he usually dangles before us.)

The one Greenaway film I’d like to see doesn’t exist. It was suggested by Greenaway’s evocation the TV show CSI to describe his forensic approach to Rembrandt’s work. His admiration for the series put me in mind of JG Ballard, who likewise expressed his pleasure at the show’s complete lack of human emotion, which echoed that of many of his own novels. Greenaway filming a Ballardian apocalypse might be quite nice, and his interest in digital technology, expressed back when Roland Emmerich was still blowing up dollhouses with firecrackers, would stand him in good stead filming the likes of The Crystal World.

Although THE MONOLITH MONSTERS is already a pretty good version of that, with its B-movie cast and Z-movie dialogue providing a more tolerable version of Greenaway’s arch alienation.

Legs Wide Shut

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2008 by dcairns

The uncensored version contains what seems to me a near-impossibility: performing oral sex while wearing a full-face mask. Don’t try this at home!

Thanks to the ever-great DVDBeaver for these images*. I was always very very amused by the idea that the U.S. release of Kubrick’s dirty swan song EYES WIDE SHUT had been censored, by having additional figures inserted into key shots to block our view of the orgiastic activities taking place at Sidney Pollack’s Bilderburg-like exclusive shagging palace. It sounded so goofy!

(It should be noted that the U.K. version was also censored, but in this case the issue was with the soundtrack, which contained sacred Islamic texts chanted over the scenes of illicit rumpy-pumpy. The score was re-jigged to defuse religious wrath.)

Now at last I’ve seen frame comparisons of both versions. Pretty funny stuff. Fiona was particularly amused by the nude blonde sitting, her head resting on her masked and cowled beau’s shoulder, as they watch the hot boy-girl action. So sweet.

Why did the scenes have to be occluded in this way? Kubrick apparently researched the U.S. censorship system as best he could, to find out what was acceptable, but still found himself looking down the barrel of an X Certificate when he presented his film to the industry bluestockings. The principle in question was one of buttock-thrusts, and he should really have researched further, because Alan Parker had come up against the same problem with ANGEL HEART. The M.P.A.A. had strongly objected to the sight of Mickey Rourke’s heaving buttocks, arguing that more than three consecutive thrusts of the buttocks in one shot constituted obscenity. Parker, ever the street-fighting man, protested and won, but the principle that obscenity has a numerical value measured in pelvic thrusts obviously remained on the sexy statute books.

(The M.P.A.A. being the odd organisation it is, did not object to the blood pouring down the walls of the room, over Rourke and his paramour, Cosby Show graduate Lisa Bonet. In Britain, the censors for a long time maintained that any conjunction of blood and breasts was liable to act as a Rape Trigger, turning male audience members into slavering beasts. They squabbled with Michael Winner over his prurient remake of THE WICKED LADY, in which Faye Dunaway bullwhips a topless Marina Sirtis, and again, a stroppy Brit managed to overcome a censorship decision just by making a big fuss over it, aided by respected industry figures like Lindsay Anderson coming to the defense of his, er, art. Maybe Kubrick should have done the same. Happy ending — at least Marina S., who has to get nude in every one of her WICKED LADY scenes, had Star Trek: The Next Generation to look forward to.)

From Parker to Barker: the other person who could have helped Kubes out would be Clive Barker. When making his first feature, Barker had run up against a narrative problem. Clare Higgins’ character in the film is besotted with a particular lover, so much so that she raises him from the dead in order to continue enjoying his affections. At a certain point in rehearsal, it became clear to Barker and his cast that it would be necessary to spell out what, exactly, this kinky couple were into. Eventually, Higgins said, “*I* think she’s into spanking.” Barker clapped his hands together: “Great.” They shot a scene.

Barker’s American producer called the next day. “We’ve just seen yesterday’s footage. Sensational. We can’t use any of it.” Turns out there was an absolute Thou Shalt Not Spank commandment in force. Barker was frustrated: “You’ve got to come clean and tell me what the rules are, then. I can’t go on guesswork.” It turned out that there WERE rules, despite the M.P.A.A.’s insistence that each case was judged on its merits. Censors don’t like to make their rules known because it makes them look silly. Splitting pubic hairs is not an occupation with a lot of dignity. It’s similar to the way that executive producers and funding bodies often don’t like to admit that they’re looking for particular kinds of material, since it implies that they’re not creative and flexible.

Anyhow, Barker was DELIGHTED with his new set of rules. “It did wonders for my sex life,” he attested. “I now knew the exact moment when I was crossing over into obscenity.”

That fourth thrust is the one that does it, folks. Try to climax before then, to stay out of trouble.

The kinkiest touch — one girl holding the other’s wrists — is also hidden. Fiona points out that the same couple is back in this shot, having presumably darted through a side exit, scooted ahead of Tom Cruise, and assumed their seats moments before his arrival. “People in masks are not to be trusted.” ~ Fessick the Giant in THE PRINCESS BRIDE.

Anyway, Stan’s difficulties with this sequence illustrate again my ground-breaking thesis re Kubrick.

*DVDBeaver is a terrific DVD review site. Not porn.

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