Archive for Alexander Walker

The Filmmakers’ Picnic

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , on November 27, 2017 by dcairns

My local library has a limited selection of film books, which I know well, but I picked up Alexander Walker’s Hollywood England for the nth time and leafed through it, and was struck by a utopian vision quoted from Walker’s old adversary Ken Russell ~

“What I’d really like to do would be to get my own little film unit together… And we could all go down to the New Forest and maybe I’d film a story about a composer, or a Dostoevsky story, and all the unit would bring down their families and I’d put them up in caravans or a hotel, and if it was fine we’d work, but if it rained, well we’d just got off and have a party.”

Walker quotes this in order to sneer at it, basically — “Russell’s curiously naive longing to be the rebel at odds with the system et indulged by it — to be the free spirit operating inside his own empire” and “The dejeuner sur l’herbe aspect of film-making, the Renoiresque aspirations, the commune conviviality are all part of a popular and usually unfounded conception of how the Great Artists work” — but doesn’t it sound divine? And the commune conviviality of film-making is perfectly genuine, though of course there’s moaning and bitching and tantrums too, and Russell was no stranger to that. But in, essentially, lecturing Russell on what great art is really like, Walker seems to be doing so from a position of far less practical experience.

The poignant thing, or one of many, really, is that Russell was so close to having this ideal arrangement at the BBC, when he made his wistful remarks. The BBC used to employ everybody you needed to make a drama, year-round. Like the old studio system. They could totally have given Russell his own small unit. A small sound stage or a large shed would have been good too — to cut down on the partying on those rainy days.

Perhaps the other time Russell was closest to attaining his dream was the last years of his life, when he returned to the home movie/art movie system he began with, making films in his garden. “No human being who ever lived ever had a happy ending,” Dorothy Parker told Sam Goldwyn. But Ken came close, I think.

I wrote this last night, not realising today is the anniversary of his passing.

Used Ken’s early still photography as illos because — they’re beautiful.

Coming soon — The Late Show: The Late Movies Blogathon.

Advertisements

Only Two Cannes Play

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on March 9, 2017 by dcairns

AN ALMOST PERFECT AFFAIR is very minor Michael Ritchie, but charming enough. Best joke is in the titles ~

Second best joke is a linguistic mix-up between lovers Keith Carradine and Monica Vitti, as she’s trying to warn him of what the future might hold — “You could be eaten be a sherk! Your teets could fall out!”

“My tits could fall out?” queries Keith, more amused than alarmed.

“Yes! Your teets!” insists Monica, and taps his impressive teeth. Aaaaaah. Got you.

Being set during the Cannes Film Festival, the film offers a few celebrity cameos, but not many. I saw more famous people the times I was in Cannes. Nice to see Sergio Leone here, though, looking like the offspring of an owl and a grizzly bear. Arnon Milchan reports that when he first got involved in the film biz, he went to Cannes, bumped into Leone, and couldn’t believe his luck when Leone pitched him ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. It was only after committing to make the damn thing that he realized that Leone had been sat on a balcony at Cannes pitching it for fifteen years, year in and year out.

Alexander Walker was on the Cannes jury the same year as Monica Vitti, but her schedule prevented her from seeing the films at the same time as everyone else. In the interests of transparency, she was required to sign a ledger testifying that she had indeed viewed the works in competition. So when the other jurors would sign their own names, they would find her testimony — “Veni, Vidi, Vitti.”

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.