Archive for Film Club

Talking Points

Posted in FILM, Politics, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2015 by dcairns


Richard Lester once said that the difference between A HARD DAY’S NIGHT and THE KNACK was the four protagonists of the former enjoy perfect communication without having to talk, while the four protagonists of the latter talk all the time without ever communicating. When this was quote back to him by Joseph Gelmis he described it as “Very glib, and very true.”

What do we talk about when we talk about THE KNACK?


The anxiety of influence — it could be argued that the film had a negative effect, because the dumb copies proliferated to such a degree that the original came to seem less fresh — part of the reason it was neglected/despised in the eighties — and because those copies became THE style of the sixties, and the British sixties in particular. It could be argued that the movie demonstrates the danger of injecting a concentrated dose of originality into a formally staid and sclerotic industry.

How does a film go from winning the Palme D’Or and defining the style of a generation of cinema (far more so than A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, actually) to being considered old hat and sexist and embarrassing? It’s the same film, after all.

Is Michael Crawford annoying? Or brilliant? Or both?

Have you read or seen the play? What do you think of the changes? I think structurally, it’s one of the best adaptations ever — as Lester said, not so much “opening out” as EXPLODING the play. Also, they come up with an ending for Tolen, which the play lacks — I guess the point being that he’s an unchanging character. But I love what the film does with him. “We’re all of us more or less sexual failures.”

The Greek chorus. Why aren’t there more Greek choruses in movies?

When is a rape joke not a rape joke? Is the film unconscious of the offence it might give, is it deliberately courting offence, does it offend you? Or, radically, can I suggest that the discomfort it produces entirely intentional and part of its meaning? The play is feminist. Is the film? A bit?

Do you find Ray Brooks attractive? I find Rita Tushingham attractive.

Donal Donnelly is in WATERLOO, THE GODFATHER III, THE DEAD, and worked for John Ford three times. Why is he not an axiom of cinema?

Pauline Kael said “It’s a great technique, but what can you do with it?” How should we answer her, bearing in mind that she can’t talk back?


Don’t rush to answer me now — think it over between now and Monday is when we will DO THIS THING. And of course don’t feel limited. I’m just interested in anybody’s responses, what bits strike them as interesting, what we can learn about film storytelling.

For now, here’s one question you CAN answer — can you think of KNACK-influenced films where the influence was positive? There are definitely some.

BTW, the whole film’s on YouTube (shouldn’t be, but is) so there are no excuses for not seeing it (except honesty).

I’ve Been Picked Up

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 5, 2015 by dcairns


OK — Film Club, August tenth — next Monday — just got A LOT more exciting.

As regular readers know, I interviewed Richard Lester at length for Criterion’s A HARD DAY’S NIGHT disc, so I have some unused quotes from The Great Man I can make use of as required.

I’ve tracked down a rare-ish interview with playwright Ann Jellicoe so we can get her thoughts too.

And now I have conducted an email interview with screenwriter Charles Wood, who was kind enough to share his memories of working on the film.

And today, at 3pm, I shall be talking on the phone to Rita Tushingham, one of the film’s stars. This is extremely cool to me. I met Rita when we recorded the VO for my Criterion extra. She’s still best of friends with Lester and I think she’s actually going to be round at his house when we speak.

All of this makes this the most thorough and in-depth Film Club I can imagine, which means that rather than relaunching the Film Club thing, I may have to retire it, on a high.

New Yorkers are urged to see the movie, in 35mm, at Lincoln Centre on Saturday night or Monday evening. Link.

Preview of Coming Attractions

Posted in FILM with tags , , on July 28, 2015 by dcairns


Remember how I was going to revisit all the directors I’ve devoted a week to? I still have Preminger, Borzage, Milestone and oh, several others to do. I got interrupted by Edinburgh Film Festival but I’m going to get back into it.

And I’m going to do a week on Seventies Sci-Fi movies. And television. Your suggestions are welcome. You can probably guess some of the things I’m going to tackle, but I’d love to hear about what you’d be interested in. It’d be great if there’s some stuff I haven’t seen.

And I’m going to bring back Film Club — where you are all invited to watch a movie and then I’ll do a big blog post on it and we can discuss it. So I have homework for you — can you all get ahold of THE KNACK…AND HOW TO GET IT, please? This was the first film I ever wrote about on Shadowplay and I like revisiting it. It’s like a great smorgasbord of film style. Paul Schrader likes PERFORMANCE and THE CONFORMIST to nick from, I like THE KNACK.

And I’m hoping to make a short film soon — more on this as it develops. I have Big Plans.




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