Archive for Antony Hopkins

Desperate Dane

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , on May 18, 2019 by dcairns

I was always sort of curious about Tony Richardson’s HAMLET. And maybe the end result is more sort-of-interesting than truly compelling, but those kind of films are very attractive to blog about, I find…

Richardson made the film cheaply by shooting at the Roundhouse Theatre in London, using the backstage spaces, a lot of bare brick corridors, making for a dour and oppressive Elsinore… also, shooting practically the whole film in tight medium shots and close-up, so as to take the strain off the art department and put the emphasis on face and voice. But here’s where the artistry comes in, because while a film of HAMLET made up of close-ups sounds like a televisual thing, Richardson keeps his cast, and Gerry Fisher’s camera, in motion, continually cramming new faces into the frame in new compositions. It’s very, very inventive, and turns a budgetary consideration into a compelling artistic one. The way figures fall off into soft blurs as they recede; the way the ghost never appears on camera but impresses merely by his voice (uncredited — who?) and by a bright light on the astonished features of the onlookers; the way everyone is always just UP IN YOUR FACE…

The cast is pretty interesting: Nicol Williamson’s puffy, pallid face does not suggest that of a student, but name me a Hamlet who does. What he does have is the ability to speak his speeches like a normal human having a conversation (without trampling the pentameters), so that he’s at his very best in the more conversational scenes. Williamson is one of those actors who can get overexcited, so I’m slightly less enamoured of his Big Scenes, but once you get over the shock of a Hamlet who’s so physically unappealing (maybe this is my self-loathing Scots side talking) I think you’ll find him impressive.

Marianne Faithfull as Ophelia seems less naturalistic, but maybe because Marianne Faithfull does not have a naturalistic face, body or voice. She’s not like someone you’d expect to meet, though I warrant you’d count yourself lucky if you did. A bit like Fenella Fielding, her mouth assumes expressions impossible on a normal skull, but I don’t think it’s mere whimsy that compels her to do so. Her face just goes that way. It’s like she’s continually being called upon to say the words “stewed prunes.” So she’s more miraculous than credible, through no fault of her own. Unable to overcome her natural advantages. And I kind of question what she sees in the jowly Scotchman, but there it is.

Antony Hopkins and Judy Parfitt are both within a year of Williamson’s age, which makes their casting as his uncle and mother… questionable. But that’s practically a tradition too. Boost the Oedipal aspect by giving H a MILF of a mom. Of course, in terms of box office, and possibly in terms of artistic success, Richardson ought to have swapped his Hamlet with his Claudius, because a movie starring Hopkins as The Dane would still be shifting units today if he’d done so. But in fact, both Hopkins and Parfitt have been rendered less effective than they might be by some very odd direction. It’s clearly a decision Richardson made, something he wanted. They’re both amused by Hamlet’s grief and unconcerned when he goes mad. It’s quite hard to work out why they embark on subterfuges with Polonius to learn the cause of his derangement, because they really don’t seem bothered about it. Most peculiar.

Vlad Songs Say So Much

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Mythology, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2018 by dcairns

Welcome to the final installment of THE VLAD TAPES, my commentary on Francis Ford Coppola’s commentary on BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA. I was several installments into this before it struck me that BSD was the first movie I saw at the cinema with Fiona. It wasn’t a date — there was a producer present — but it was the start of something. And the first time I saw Fiona wearing glasses. And at the end of the movie she said, “Now, we can’t discuss it until we’re outside,” which I thought very disciplined. Normally, now, Fiona launches into the post-match analysis as the credits are starting their rise, so I think maybe she was just showing off.

We begin with an elaborate explanation of the ongoing plot from Uncle Francis, which I’ll omit.

This is, you know, a glass shot, or some old-fashioned studio effect.

It would be nice if he was sure which.

I forget even now watching what we had built and what we added… I think my mind was going at this point.

And when did that start, exactly?

You know it was a lot of stuff to shoot in a relatively short time frame… this is for sure a glass shot, the road is real and then the rest is painted.

I guess with the passage of time, it’s less easy to tell when the film is being deliberately retro and when it’s just using the standard techniques of 1992. Plenty of films still used glass shots then, I think. But the lack of overt CGI certainly works against it dating.

And it’s snowing at Castle Sitting Down Dracula! They should show this movie every Christmas.

You begin to wonder why all movies look alike, and it’s because the solutions to problems are done a certain way and when you’re making a movie you have that stunt guy and he says “You fall off a horse this way,” and that’s the way they fall off the horse in every movie… I mean, good reason, it’s probably the safe way…

Wait, what are we saying, again? The real geniuses devise more painful and dangerous ways to fall off horses. That’s probably about right, I guess.

but it’s sort of an undertow when you make an industrial film, which this is, to do it the same way they’re used to doing it…

OK, yes, I get you. And it’s true. But to break through that you do need to offer a better way, don’t you?

If you have a photographer and you ask him to do something stupid or unconventional, he’s worried […] what his peers are gonna say, is he gonna be laughed at, at the Photographers’ Ball when they all get together…

Is there a Photographer’s Ball? Was Ballhaus scared of what they’d all say at the ball? I love this idea. I love the image of a shamed Ballhaus, his peers all laughing down their viewfinders at him, waving their light meters scornfully.

My daughter Sophia does it another way, she’s a tiny woman, she’s not a, she’s a very petite woman, very sweet and gentle, but she’s just hard as nails underneath, so she’ll just say “I don’t want to do it that way.”

Whereas Francis would kick holes in doors. We live in less romantic times.

Van Helsing uses a Gurkha knife to decapitate the brides of Dracula:

So much for the three Brides of Dracula, you cut off their heads and they’re finished.

True. But you needn’t feel so superior about it.

I feel a bit sorry for the brides. They seem to be conscious, but unable to move because it’s daylight, and here comes this gallumphing taff actor to decapitate them. Horrible! Think of it from their point of view and it’s the scariest scene in the picture.

Animated POV again —

That was to show that Mina had the pixilated vision so she didn’t need the binoculars.

Are you implying she’s squiffled or something?

It is remarkable that this chase has the variety it has, because it’s all shot in the same place.

Chases don’t work so well in the studio. What Uncle Francis is really saying is that this is pretty good considering it’s the wrong way of doing it.

But actually, it’s really quite accomplished. It’s the fight that comes next that’s kind of messy.

These blue rings of fire I do believe were done on an optical printer

Francis feels the in-camera tricks have a more organic feel. Possibly true. I like how they’re the same rings — positively the same rings — as seen when Mephistopheles appears in Murnau’s FAUST and the false Maria is brought to life in METROPOLIS.

Much of these shots are done by Roman because there were so many shots to get, a slew of them […] we were like a two-man team doing these things.

The epic battle just seems like a lot of thrashing about. The occasional wide shots, like this one, aren’t terribly impressive. It’s very much a sequence made by the cutter, using a lot of just-adequate material, and it never gets very involving or exciting, despite the music and the race-the-sunset concept.

Keanu seems slightly more on top of his accent at last. Like he’s delivering the lines, not the other way around.

And for the large, large, large part, all these lines are out of the book.

If Keanu Reeves swapped parts with Alex Winter as the author of The Vampyre in HAUNTED SUMMER, which film would get better and which would get worse? I think they might be about the same. Still GREAT.

And then, alas, there’s a series of morphs taking Gary through his previous incarnations, though he skips the big friendly dog and the green fart stage. Remember how excited everybody got about morphing for about five minutes? (David Lynch, on why he didn’t use morphs in LOST HIGHWAY: “It just seems like everyone and his uncle’s doin’ it.”) Lap dissolves would have been more in keeping with Roman Coppola’s old-school approach to the other effects, maybe with a slight, subtle morphing assistance. It’s the one jarringly fashionable effect.

I remember I showed it to my friend George Lucas, and he looked it and he said, “I think she should cut off his head,” and I said, “Well, that’s pretty disgusting,” he says, “Yeah, well, that’s the greatest act she could give him, to give him the peace and the moment of once again being taken to God’s breast can only be given to him by cutting off his head,” and I said, “Yeah, I hadn’t quite thought of it that way,” and I did it. […] George had thought that to REALLY be sure that he’d never be a vampire again… I thought it was pretty CLEAR… I did it the sparks went in, the thing went through his heart, like a stake through the heart, George says “She should cut off his head, that’s the greatest act of love she could do,” I said “Okay! If they don’t get it with the stake through the heart, we’ll cut off his head. Pretty startling thing to do.”

“I don’t think he should have listened to George,” says Fiona.

I point out that they had to decapitate all the other vampires. Van Helsing was very clear about that.

“I suppose so. You can’t have a special rule just for Gary Oldman, much as you would like to.”

Still, given all that’s happened since, maybe a good general rule would be, “Never listen to George Lucas.”

I guess Gary got to keep the head, but did they also give him the nipple from earlier?

Which actor of our times is closest to being able to assemble a full silicone Frankenstein monster of himself from all the bits he’s had done in different movies?

And such is the end. They go off to heaven as lovers always do. Paola and Francesca, Dracula and Elisabeta

Bert and Ernie.

Although waitaminute, Mina’s not dead, so can the woman she’s the reincarnation of be going off to heaven with Gary? Seems a tricky one. It’s kind of like the polygamy we have to assume exists in Heaven for all the people who were widowed and remarried and then died…

and on and on, the end.

Yes.

The credits are rolling but Francis shows no signs of stopping.

My idea was to make it with young people and to make it more romantic and in fact SEXY, the Brides of Dracula and the various scenes with Sadie and then combining eroticism when Mina begins to be infected by the blood of the vampire, she gets to be sort of provocatively sexy, and in fact she was pretty sexy in that scene with Anthony Hopkins, you know, she brings him down to her level and almost exalts [sic] in the fact that she has him stoked up.

Well, it is Bram STOKER’S — oh wait, I already made that joke.

So it was supposed to be a more sexy version. I don’t feel it’s so scary a version. Maybe a little bit.

Yes.

It’s my take on Jim Hart’s script, which I guess is all a director can do.

Short of getting a better writer.

I was able to achieve a final — hopefully final! — freedom from the film industry as an industry. As I continue now, as I speak to you, it’s 2006 and I am just recently sixty-seven years old, or as I like to call it, fifty-seventeen, and I decided to do what I always felt I wanted to do, which is to be an amateur

Which is lovely. And then he compares himself to Borodin, because Borodin was a doctor in his professional life and a composer on the side, and Tchaikovsky, because, well it kind of breaks down there. Maybe Francis likes hot baths.

I hope you have enjoyed these thoughts

“Oh we certainly have!” says Fiona.

Thank you so much.

You’re very welcome INDEED.

It’s not over until the thin Aberdonian lady sings, so here’s Annie Lennox. Remember not to start discussing the movie until she’s done.

It’s Vlad, Dad!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2018 by dcairns

Huzzah! We’re back in the room with Uncle Francis Ford Coppola, director of BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, watching BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA with the director of it. Slip into something fuchsia and join Fiona and I (and Uncle Francis) on this adventure!

So, Mary Shelley was at that time not much older than seventeen

So, uh, eighteen?

We now get a garbled explanation of how Lord Byron inspired Mary Shelley to write “the articulate monster Frankenstein,” a theory new to me but which does seem to enfold the classic error of naming the monster Frankenstein rather than the creator. And this man produced Francis Ford Coppola’s Kenneth Branagh’s MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN.

But Dr. Polidori who was probably in love with Lord Byron in a way that was unspeakable

HAHAHA but now Uncle Francis garbles Polidori’s The Vampyre, conflating it with the unrelated penny dreadful VARNEY THE VAMPIRE.

a figure who, by his attractiveness, sucks the life, sucks the blood out of you, so he cast Byron in his mind as the vampire. So in a way both our famous monsters the monster Frankenstein and the vampire Dracula, are both inspired by Lord Byron.

No no no, none of that is true.

“Sadie looks like shit with red hair,” says Fiona, who is more than usually follicle-obsessed right now. “OK, maybe not shit. But it doesn’t suit her.”

Thinking back on this movie, it wasn’t terribly enjoyable experience for me.

Fancy dissolves on Absinthe pouring.

“That is such a Tia-Maria-commercial dissolve,” remarks Fiona, scornfully. But in fact, the classic Tia Maria ads starring Iman relied mainly on hard cuts. I think it’s Gordon’s Gin she’s think of. Or possibly Castrol GTX. At any rate, this is indeed the one bit of the film that really looks like an ad for something (we’re about to get a bit that looks like a music video) — as more and more of our visual language is co-opted by salesmen, is it going to get harder for filmmakers dedicated to the quest for cinematic beauty to avoid this? Perhaps not… because Madison Avenue isn’t watching Carl Dreyer, and great cinema is informed by substance and meaning and reality as well as photogenics. This sequence lapses into the language of ad-land precisely because it has no purpose other than to promote absinthe. Coppola’s business-man head and wine-grower’s sensibility are seeping in.

Roman did such beautiful effects work in it to weave the legendary and somewhat magical effects of the drink absinthe which was of course made illegal around this time or a little later, primarily because it was the first aperitif that was made out of something other than grapes

Uncle Francis, I believe, can be trusted on the subject of drink. So I’m grateful for this history lesson. (Fiona checks his various absinthe anecdotes on Wikipedia and he’s confirmed correct.)

and really present Dracula as a romantic figure

“Let’s just show him crying, that’ll help,” says Fiona.

“And sweating,” I add.

I think this movie was thought of many different ways, but among the most enthusiastic people who seem to have enjoyed the film are women, it’s the nature of the love story, I mean everyone at some point has been in love with someone who’s bad for them. Certainly being in love with Dracula would fit that description [laughs].

Fiona points out that Uncle Francis DOES have a sense of humour and can laugh at himself. He doesn’t need me.

Then we get another crack about Winona not being willing to push herself enough.

This is definitely an homage to Cocteau, but a lovely image, that he takes her tears and makes them into diamonds, every man would like to do that if he makes the woman he loves cry.

Maybe it could work as an excuse? “I swear, I was just trynna make diamonds come out of your eyes!”

Keanu is STILL a prisoner in Sitting-Down-Dracula Castle. But Coppola is finally talking about Wojciech Kilar’s score. He originally wanted Witold Lutoslawski: “Young man, do you know how many hours it takes me to write one minute of music?”

The implication that at that level of handmade music it’s incredibly time-consuming

To listen to or to compose? I think he lucked out with Kilar.

He wrote three or at the most four cues, a love theme, a kind of initial, very dramatic theme, and then a third theme.

Beautifully evoked there. I can almost hear them, especially the third one.

And that was all he gave me.

Coppola says they only had these three tracks and they had to mix them differently in order to not just have them repeat endlessly. Uncle Fran puts this down to classical music being so time-consuming and Kilar being of that world, but WK had already done film scores for Kieslowski… So I think maybe he was just taking the piss, defrauding Hollywood by doing the minimum work for a presumably generous fee. But he wrote GREAT themes.

(Later, I will realise that I was so fascinated by this disquisition that I missed the entirety of Keanu Harker’s escape from Sitting-Down Dracula Castle.)

“Winona’s got such adorable ears,” says Fiona. A shame she won’t push herself. She just falls back on her ears.

Funny how FFC is always full of praise for Sadie Frost’s sexiness, but can’t resist slapping Winona down for her (if anything, superior) performance.

She’s sorta sexy with those cute little baby vampire teeth.

She puts me in mind of a young Celine Dione.

Discourse on Hopkins’ aversion to long rehearsals, or any rehearsal at all. Coppola admits the value of spontaneity.

“This is like the video for Wrapped Around Your Finger.” [by The Police] says Fiona, accurately.

“I never much liked the idea for ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger.’ No, I was kind of pissed off about that one. I’ve never been much of a fan of that song, actually. Sting got to shoot his part last in that video and made a meal of knocking all the candles out. Fuck him.” – Andy Summers [The Police]

These sequence with the candles was really the brainchild of Michael Ballhaus, who was really a wonderful man, and trying very hard to get with what he understood ultimately was a kind of far-out style in which almost anything goes, and I think if I’m correct, he’d got the idea of a scene where there were just candles and what have you.

Poor Michael.

I don’t want to dwell on Antony Hopkins’ performance too much. I think his accent is good, he can do throwaway with it, which Keanu can’t. But the note of music hall is not helpful to this picture.

You could say I encouraged him to be a bit over the top, but the whole movie is over the top, so what’s over the top?

Antony Hopkins is.

You know, I’m even beginning to think of an era in which I make movies not only in which you tend to hold closer to your vest, right, which is to say you don’t show anyone the script and you don’t ask anyone’s opinion but maybe even one day you don’t even show the film to anyone. Maybe you just make it and you look at it and you say “okay” and then you put it in a closet drawer and you forget it.

Man’s mad.

All you need to do that is a lot of money.

Yeah, right, so there’s absolutely no downside because WHAAAAAAT

TO BE CONTINUED