Archive for Hurd Hatfield

Warren Beatty’s biscuits

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2016 by dcairns

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Warren Beatty’s biscuits are brought to you by MICKEY ONE, successfully bringing you Warren Beatty’s biscuits since 1965.

It’s a fascinating piece. The opening sequence, which unfold like a really great fashion spread of the sixties, only with moving parts, had me convinced this was going to be great before the director credit. And then I got progressively less convinced, but still impressed.

Mickey One titles from David Cairns on Vimeo.

Arthur Penn, fabulously squandering the goodwill generated by THE MIRACLE WORKER, goes all out to create an American art film, which is not a form native to America. I think the ultimate cargo cult art film may be Frankenheimer’s STORY OF A LOVE STORY, which dutifully assembles a bunch of talents with impeccable arthouse credentials and then sits back, well pleased with itself, while the already-sparse audience shuffle out. Penn likewise has a leading lady and a cinematographer with nouvelle vague references, and an actor from THE SEVEN SAMURAI (I was thinking I know that guy for the longest time, simply assuming he was Japanese-American, but NO, they imported him), but to his credit his film is also 100% American, with a particularly strong sense of time and place.

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The very young Warren Beatty plays a stand-up comedian on the run from the mob — in the third act he reverses his course and tries running TO the mob, which is the main bit of plot development. There’s intriguing support from Franchot Tone (looking like he’s been in another fight), Hurd Hatfield and Jeff Corey. Alexandra Stewart is the Cahiers-approved leading lady.

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On the minus side, Beatty’s material isn’t funny, and he isn’t funny doing it; the plot is paper-thin but not really meant to be otherwise; the film wants to be Felliniesque but only Fellini could pull that one off (is there any other great filmmaker whose influence on US film was so overwhelmingly negative? Fellini has an especial appeal for filmmakers who don’t want to do the work of telling a proper story — I think it’s significant that just as Picasso knew how to draw a credible realistic human figure, Fellini was a master storyteller who moved beyond storytelling); the attempts to do quirky, ludic filmmaking with undercranking and stuff are mainly a bit embarrassing.

On the plus side, fabulous imagery is thrown up all the time, working best when it arises naturally from the settings rather than being some kind of surreal conceit. And the movie has the most glorious dissolves: scenes melt into one another, frequently resulting in Beatty sharing the screen with himself (which I’m sure he loves). One time, driving a car, Beatty turns his head as if reacting to something, and a second landscape bleeds through in just the spot he’s looking at, followed by a second Beatty, peering uncertainly from the back of the first one’s head. The brilliant editor was Aram Avakian, later a fine director.

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Two Beattys #1: ethereal foreground Warren looks at background Warren seemingly walking through fire.

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Two Beattys #2: Warren 2 looks out the back of Warren 1’s head.

(In his autohagiography The Kid Stays in the Picture, Robert Evans says he fired Avakian from THE GODFATHER for manoeuvring against Coppola, trying to steal his job. It may be true, But Avakian had worked with Coppola before [YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW], was Coppola’s guy. Evans, on the other hand, was manoeuvring against Coppola (it’s kind of what some producers see their job as — stop the film from being too individual a creative expression) and I suspect him of simply trying to weaken Coppola’s band of followers. He couldn’t easily fire the cinematographer, but editors are easy to snip out of the picture, privately.)

More acting with himself: it’s kind of hilarious the number of scenes Beatty plays with other actors who won’t talk to him. Little Kamitari Fujiwara never speaks at all, and Tone and Hatfield and the rest spend long scenes just staring balefully and refusing to answer Warren’s impassioned questions. “Why does nobody want to talk to Warren?” I asked.

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The ending is a would-be Fellini trope that rather irked me, but there’s a bit where Beatty tries to perform his act in the spotlight’s glare with the strong sense that he’s about to be killed — he performs to the light, as if meeting his maker, and it does achieve the existentialism the film is clutching for. The trouble is, it happens TWICE, at roughly the two-thirds mark and at the end, which rather dilutes the effect. But I could see the potential — Micky’s Kafkaesque contract, which may or not exist, makes him a man under obscure sentence of death, like the whole human race. Pompous and self-serious, maybe, but evocative, especially in black and white.

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Hallelujah the Hills

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2014 by dcairns

Arch-Shadowplayer David Ehrenstein provides our second guest post for The Late Show: The Late Movies Blogathon. Subject: Adolfas Mekas.

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Hallelujah the Hills

By David Ehrenstein

HTH

Hallelujah the Hills (1963) is most succinctly described by Ed Halter in the “Village Voice” in a column he wrote in 2003.

“A be-bopped beatnik riff on Mack Sennett madness, updated for the anything-goes youth counterculture, Adolfas Mekas’s 1963 Hallelujah the Hills provided a homegrown riposte to nouvelle vague zaniness, and became one of the more lighthearted cornerstones of the New American Cinema. Screening for its 40th birthday, a new 35mm print showcases cinematographer Ed Emshwiller‘s spot-on black-and-white lensing, which achieves a perfect balance of picturesque control and experimental fancy.

Loopy in more ways than one, Hills isn’t so much a linear narrative as an ongoing do-si-do between two madcap man-boys—bespectacled nebbish Leo (Marty Greenbaum) and studly Ivy League dipsomaniac Jack (Peter H. Beard)—in pursuit of the same girl, Vera, who’s coyly played by two actresses (Sheila Finn and Peggy Steffans) representing Leo and Jack’s different views of their shared paramour. In between wooing, the cast tool around wintery Vermont in a jeep, romp naked through icy waters, and spoof the art-film canon, from Griffith to Kurosawa. The finale brings a secret woodland cache of ga-ga-ga-goils and a film-stopping cameo from googly-eyed underground jester Taylor Mead. The result is a dizzy time capsule of proto-revolutionary anarchy, like bits of youthful, energetic innocence frozen in the snowdrifts of time.”

The premise (there’s no plot to speak of) is after being dumped by Vera for “the horrible Gideon (film scholar Gideon Bachmann) Jack and Leo take off for the territory to mourn their lost love. The morning process is delivered as a series of film homages involving not only Griffith and Kurosawa but Dreyer’s Vampyr  and W.C. Fields’ The Fatal Glass of Beer.

Unable to contain itself any longer the film comes to a halt in what would otherwise be its “Third Act<” to show the ice rescue scene from Way Down East, before resuming again.

(Ice Rescue scene from Way Down East analyzed)

Wiki sez

“Adolfas Meka 30 September 1925 – 31 May 2011) was born on a farm in Semeniskiai, Lithuania to Elzbieta and Povilas Mekas and brother to sister Elzbieta and Povilas, Petras, Kostas and Jonas. Adolfas was the youngest in the family.

At age 14, while still in Lithuania, Mekas saw his first film Captain Blood starring Errol Flynn, the cinemagic of which he would never forget.[citation needed] In July 1944, toward the end of World War II when Lithuania was occupied by both Soviet and German troops, Adolfas and his brother Jonas left Lithuania by train, fearing retaliation for their participation in the underground. Near Hamburg, they were taken from the train and put into a forced labor camp.[After World War II ended, the brothers were sent from one DP camp to another across Germany. While in the displaced persons camps in Germany, Adolfas attended classes in literature and theatre arts and philosophy at the University in Mainz, where he also wrote and published short stories, novels, and tall-tale books for children. Having been refused entry into Israel, New Zealand, and Canada, Mekas was sent as a refugee to the United States, where he landed with his brother at the end of 1949.[In the spring of 1950 he purchased a 16mm Bolex camera and began photographing life around him while he wrote more than 50 scripts and attended every film screening offered at the Museum of Modern Art, Cinema 16, Thalia, Stanley, and other venues for films of any kind, supporting himself with a variety of jobs from dishwasher to foreman in a Castro Convertible factory. He was drafted into the Army during the Korean War, assigned to the Signal Corps, and sailed for France in September 1951. On his return to the United States from Europe in 1953, he continued writing and filming and also began organizing, with his brother Jonas, the American Film House. Though the brothers approached many independent filmmakers, none were interested in collaborating on the project. Adolfas and Jonas persisted for over a year to find a location in Manhattan, but without success. In 1954 they abandoned the idea of the American Film House and with the money they had borrowed for the Film House project started a film society, which they called the Film Forum. “We showed films at public schools and at Carl Fischer Hall on 57th Street, wherever we could, until we went bankrupt in the middle of the second film series later in the year just in time to start Film Culture magazine, the first issue of which came out in December 1954.” – Adolfas Mekas

Film Culture magazine would be an outlet for anyone who had something to say about film.”

(Meaning ME!)

“In 1961 brother Jonas began shooting “Guns of the Trees.” Adolfas assisted him in all stages of production, writing and editing, and played one of the leads in the film. Other players were Ben Carruthers, Frances Stillman and Argus Speare Juilliard. The controversial film was considered to be a “poetic-political manifesto.”

In 1963 Adolfas’ film Hallelujah The Hills was the surprise smash hit of the Cannes Festival. Subsequently it was invited to 27 film festivals, including the First New York Film Festival, London Festival, Montreal Film Festival, Mannheim Film Festival and the Bombay Film Festival; it won the Silver Sail at the Locarno Festival, was invited to a Command Screening for the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace and had a 15-week run at the Fifth Avenue cinema in New York. Time magazine called it “… the weirdest, wooziest, wackiest screen comedy of 1963.” Jean-Luc Godard wrote in Cahiers du Cinema, “Hallelujah proved clearly that Adolfas is someone to be reckoned with. He is a master in the field of pure invention, that is to say, in working dangerously – ‘without a net.’ His film, made according to the good old principle – one idea for each shot – has the lovely scent of fresh ingenuity and crafty sweetness.”

In March 1964 he met his wife to be, Pola Chapelle. They were separated before their marriage by the production of his second feature film, The Double Barreled Detective Story, but never again during their long lifetime together. A rough and tumble nineteenth century town was built just outside Johnstown, Pennsylvania, for the location of the filming of The Double Barreled Detective Story. The screenplay was based on a Mark Twain short story and the film starred Hurd Hatfield and Greta Thyssen. In spite of the extraordinary performance of Hurd Hatfield, who played two parts in the movie, there were problems with the production from the start, and Adolfas never got to do a final cut. The producers took the film out of his hands and refused to release it. Nonetheless, with a little help from his friends, he was able to whisk a print to the Venice Film Festival of 1965. Gene Moskowitz in Variety wrote of the film – “The Double Barreled Detective Story is authentic Mark Twain-esque with all the rustic humor of the 1880s….Mekas shows he has a way with parody and he gets disarmingly innocent performances from his cast.”

In the same year Adolfas directed Pola Chapelle in a short parody of Italian art films of the time, written by Peter Stone for the Broadway show Skyscraper which starred Julie Harris and Charles Nelson Reilly. Paul Sorvino played opposite Pola in the three-minute film clip which won kudos from the critics. “…. a priceless film sequence satirizing Italian movies, for some of the heartiest laughs of the evening.” Nadel, NY World Telegram. “….there is a film sequence made by Adolfas Mekas: a very funny parody of an Italian movie, in Italian, complete with English subtitles and a projector that goes ‘zzzzzzz.” Julius Novick, Village Voice.

After his marriage in 1965 and for the rest of the 60s, Adolfas wrote and hustled his scripts to agents and producers while working as an editor and/or post production coordinator on various independent films, including the soft-core flics of Joe Sarno, ABC-TV’s Wild World of Sports, and a few TV musical extravaganzas. He was encouraged by Howard Hausman of the William Morris Agency, who had seen the future of cinema in Adolfas’ first film Hallelujah The Hills and made more than a few attempts at getting Adolfas’ scripts into the hands of independent producers who would understand their uniquely different style. Although three of his screenplays remained at Warner Brothers for a few years, under consideration, none were ever produced.

In 1967, with a very tight budget, Adolfas made a 16mm b&w film from his own script – “Windflowers, Elegy for a Draft Dodger.” “….No frills, no Gipsy violin effects, no second movement of Aranjuez’s concerto – and it is thereby, poignant. It is the other side of Vietnam. The stubbornness of a silent young man who is running away….who simply wanted to live.” Cahiers du Cinema, Dominique Noguez.

Shortly after the completion of Windflowers, Adolfas was contacted by Governor Harold E. Hughes of Iowa and his staff. After an interview with the Governor, he was given the job of creating promotional commercials for Hughes’ campaign for the United States Senate. He had no experience in the genre, but the challenge was enticing and he spent the summer of 1967 filming Harold Hughes as he stumped the Iowa cornfields. He produced 35 TV commercials for Hughes election to the Senate. Harold Hughes won.

In 1968 Adolfas wrote, directed, and starred in a 3-minute short entitled “Interview with the Ambassador from Lapland.” It was photographed by brother Jonas, with assistance from Shirley Clarke on sound. Pola Chapelle produced. “In these 3 minutes Mekas is Swift, the horrible and admirable Swift of the ‘Modest Proposal.’ One really must admit that Mekas has made the USA a bit less loathsome.” Cahiers du Cinema, DN. (Nota Bene: Jonas sometimes claims authorship of this short film, calling it the Time Life Vietnam Newsreel.)

In 1969 Adolfas photographed and edited “Fishes in Screaming Water” a catfilm produced by Pola Chapelle for the First International CatFilm Festival – INTERCAT ’69 – which she founded. For the 2nd International Catfilm Festival in 1973, he made the award winning “How to Draw A Cat.”

He edited and subtitled “Companeras and Companeros” in 1970 – A feature documentary, shot in Cuba by David and Barbara Stone. He edited three versions: for United States release, for European release, for Cuban release. That same year he cut and edited a film by Yoko Ono, 360 legs, in “Up Your Leg.”

In 1972, assisted by Pola Chapelle, Adolfas completed a film which documented the autobiographical journey of his return to Lithuania after a 27-year absence. “Going Home” was invited to the New York Film Festival and many other festivals that year. It was part of the Conference on Visual Anthropology at Temple University in 1974 and chosen by the Museum of Modern Art to be screened in its Anthropological Cinema exhibit, which toured internationally from 1975 to 1977.

On 3 July 1971 Adolfas received a teaching contract from Bard College. Soon after, he began organizing the young Film Department. At first denied tenure, he began a campaign in pursuit of it, believing that if he were given tenure, the Film Department would be tenured. Armed with letters from colleagues in the film world and ex-students, he was successful, and in 1979, tenure was granted him. He and Pola, young son Sean and Mamacat moved to the Hudson Valley, where he would dedicate himself to sharing his passion for the magic of film with the eager and talented young people of the then pastoral Bard College. Down The Road, a nearby pub became their after hours seminar room.

Only a very small budget was available to the Bard Film Department, and the department continued as the “orphan in the storm” for many years. Not deterred, never frustrated, once a year Adolfas rented a truck, and together with Pola, he scoured the labs of his film friends in New York City whose donations of reels, split reels, cores, viewers, projectors and occasionally a moviola, were carried back to Bard’s Carriage House – the Bard Film Center of the early years. The lack of proper funding of the department worked to energize Adolfas and his students in innovative ways, e.g., to raise funds for senior projects in film, he held lunchtime auctions outside the dining commons on campus. The film department was small – more than three graduates was rare in the early years; but unceasingly active and always visible, the dynamic center of the Bard campus. During his years as Chairman, Adolfas brought to the Bard Film Department some of the most noted independent and experimental filmmakers, including, Bruce Baillie, Ernie Gehr, Andrew Noren, Barry Gerson, Peter Hutton and Peggy Ahwesh and film historians and theorists Paul Arthur, P. Adams Sitney. John Pruitt, and guest faculty – friends including Ken Jacobs, Sidney Peterson, Shirley Clarke and George Kuchar. The Bard Film Department grew in stature to become one of the most respected film departments in the nation.

  1. Adams Sitney writes, “what came to be known as the People’s Film Department was his (Adolfas’) theater of hijinks; he surprised even himself with his enormous didactic gifts, his startling administrative skill and his unceasing fount of comic invention. His own fractured education and his nearly total disregard for academic decorum made him the ideal professor. Nowhere in the archive of film is there an invented character who could come near the brilliant, lovable, outrageous mischief that consistently turned his classrooms into arenas of magic. He taught generations how to see and act.”

And now the stars

Peter Beard first and foremost.

Here’s a fairly recent photo.

Here he is as I will always see him in my mind’s eye

 Wiki sez:

“Peter Beard’s photographs of Africa, African animals, and the journals that often integrate his photographs have been widely shown and published since the 1970s. His grandmother, Ruth (Hill) Beard, married, as her second husband, Pierre Lorillard IV, who was a tobacco magnate and is credited with helping to popularize the tuxedo. A great-grandfather, James Jerome Hill, was founder of the Great Northern Railway in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries. Railroads, in part, provided the infrastructure for colonization both in the United States and Africa, promoting expansion into undeveloped frontiers. James Jerome Hill made his fortune in the railroad business, leaving as legacy both money, colonialism and art to his great-grandson Peter. While not rejecting money from this trust, Beard laments the expansion of Western capitalism into Africa. James Jerome Hill was a great patron of the arts and all of his heirs were exposed to and owned great collections, thus having a great impact on Peter’s interest in the arts and beauty. Beard is famous not only for his photographs of endangered African elephants but also of supermodels and rock stars like Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Iman, Veruschka.

Beard’s milieu consisted of Andy Warhol, Jackie Onassis, Lee Radziwill, Truman Capote, and Bianca Jagger who all lived and rented houses in Montauk and Manhattan in the 1970s and 1980s. Beard also had a close relationship with the late painter, Francis Bacon (painter). He photographed Bacon and was also the model for several of Bacon’s paintings. Beard was traveling with and photographing the Rolling Stones on the infamous Rolling Stones 1972 tour of America.”

Thus the “Vera’s” of Hallelujah the Hills are models very much to Peter Beard’s exquisite taste.

Marty Greenbaum is quite different story. Here he is in a recent photo:

Here’s some of his art

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Here’s his resume .

Here’s artist and filmmaker Ed Emshwiller, who was the film’s DP.

Hallelujah the Hills is one of the most gorgerous black and white films ever made – easily the equal of Fellini’s 8 ½ shot by Gianni DiVenanzo that same year.

Here’s Meyer Kupferman who composed the superb musical score.

And here’s his Symphony Number 4 (1955)

Chambermaid of Secrets

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2013 by dcairns

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Burgess Meredith (above, left) must be the actor most associated with author Octave Mirbeau — he stars in the Amicus horror compendium TORTURE GARDEN, which admittedly owes nothing but its title to Mirbeau’s Le Jardin des Supplices, but he also scripted and appears in Jean Renoir’s film of THE DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID.

Renoir and Meredith do right by Mirbeau’s unfilmable (but filmed several times: once by Bunuel) book, by making a film which one cannot conceive of as a Hollywood product. Paulette Goddard, who has turned hard-hearted after unspecified mistreatment by men and by the upper classes, enters her new position determined to find a rich husband and leave behind the world of manual toil. Immediately we sense trouble, as the mistress of the house is Judith Anderson. The master is kindly duffer Reginald Owen in a Boudou beard, playing a dreamy sort of Lord Emsworth dolt. Further eccentricity is provided by neighbour Burgess Meredith himself, who eats flowers and throws stones (but never the other way around — stones have no flavour).

Meredith seems like possible husband material, which shows how hard up Paulette is. He has money salted away, but when Paulette’s attentions over-excite him and he accidentally kills his beloved pet squirrel, she starts to suspect that being his fiancée might be fraught with peril.

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Does this sound like a Hollywood movie so far?

Then the young master comes home from his debauches, and he is Hurd Hatfield, which means that Paulette is sharing house with Dorian Gray, Mrs Danvers, Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson and Ebeneezer Scrooge (Owen played the latter three). With the Penguin living just across the way. Anderson/Danvers sets about pimping out the new maid to persuade her psycho son, who is the apple of her eye but who despises her fervently, to stick around the family pile.

Hatfield is a surly invalid who reads the grimmer bits of Shakespeare (“Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres…”), clearly meant to suggest Sade. To Paulette, he seems a potential mark, but his mood swings and unhealthy relationship with mother tend to rule him out. Then a new prospect emerges from an unlikely quarter. Valet Francis Lederer (from CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY and PANDORA’S BOX) proposes buying a bar with loot raised by stealing the silverware, and Paulette is amenable.

The film’s only turn towards conventional Hollywood morality is Paulette’s last-minute conversion to righteousness after Lederer stoops to murder. Even then, the conventional romantic solution is undercut by an earlier, throwaway moment when Owen, reading the Paris newspaper, remarks upon the latest case of murder — WOMAN MUTILATED! — and we ask herself, who has been in Paris? Why has the line been placed there? What are you implying, Jean Renoir? As the happy couple head off into the sunset, we recall that both of them had been in Paris not long before…

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Bottom-scraping indie Benedict Bogeaus produced, and the film has a cheap feel — Eugene Lourie’s sets don’t convince, nor do they create a particularly alluring sense of fakery, and to be honest Renoir doesn’t do the best job of concealing the threadbare cyclorama. But he does whirl the camera about with some brio at the violent climax, and this may be the one US film on his CV that hits the notes of unsettling, tone-clashing weirdness that we find in some of his French films (the Lourie-designed RULES OF THE GAME, for one). Hurd Hatfield believed that Paulette was all wrong for the movie due to her “cheap-sounding” American accent, but in a movie where Lederer’s German and Owen’s English accents both represent French characters, where should one look for a barometer of linguistic authenticity? As with CLUNY BROWN (Owen’s second role as lord of the manor that year), Brits above stairs and Yanks below makes a feasible and not too distracting scheme.

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Francis L has a special spike for slowly murdering geese. Because that’s how he rolls.

We rather loved it. We watched SWAMP WATER the following night, and that one is a proper terrific film, but DOAC is bananas, the kind of thing where you can’t figure out why it exists but you’re glad it does. Fiona and I recognized it as a kindred spirit.