Archive for John Schlesinger

Last Ad at Marienbad

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2017 by dcairns

A day of celebration! I’ve found another Richard Lester ad. Considering he spent decades shooting the things, they’re remarkably hard to uncover evidence of. The caroselli he made in Italy, which were supposed to be destroyed after one screening, are easier to find than his UK commercials.

I was set on the trail of this one by rereading a 1969 interview in Directors in Action: “One that might have run into trouble was a Grant’s Whiskey short I did in 1960, to be sold to the Middle East. We tried to make it seem like an aphrodisiac! It went down very well, that one, and because it was about the time of Last Year at Marienbad it was done in that vein.”

At 03.01 in this reel we get THREE ads for Grant’s, all clearly executed by the same team. I can’t actually swear these are Lester’s work. Maybe I’ll get a chance to ask him next week… But the MARIENBAD stylistic connection seems clear — the elegance of Resnais’ visuals translates all too easily into adland glamour! And the cutting! That’s what makes me think it’s Lester, the rhythms are so extraordinary. I would guess that Nic Roeg shot these, but again, I’d be guessing. The focus-pulls through foreground objects occur in HELP!, PETULIA, CUBA. There are shots in ad 2 that seem straight out of the park sequence in PETULIA. That low angle of the waterfall!

These ads would totally have been banned later on — associating drink with luxury, youth, opulent lifestyle, became something the authorities in Britain came down on. Admen had to be quite clever to find any kind of attractive images they could use at all. It’s also kind of ironic since I don’t get the impression Grant’s is that classy a whiskey (always faintly disappointing to see Jon Finch drinking Bell’s in THE FINAL PROGRAMME. Maybe it was director Robert Fuest’s tipple of choice, but frankly…)

In a 1973 Sight & Sound interview Lester also claims to have mimicked MARIENBAD for an L&M cigarette commercial — he, Karel Reisz and John Schlesinger each made one. But I haven’t been able to track those down, alas.

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The Look # 1: Julie Flashes

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2016 by dcairns

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Julie Christie flashes the camera in BILLY LIAR.

I am reading and enjoying Geoff Dyer’s Zona — it really is as good as everyone says. The kind of book I’d like to write, if I could settle on a film and if anyone would agree with me on which film was worth settling on.

Dyer has plumped for Tarkovsky’s STALKER, and his discursive approach echoes the antics of a lively mind watching a slow film — sometimes totally concentrated on the sounds and images in front of him, sometimes darting off into memory or fantasy, inspired by the movie but running on a parallel track. Here’s Dyer on a moment when Tark’s characters seem to meet the camera’s gaze ~

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This is in direct contravention of Roland Barthe’s edict in his essay ‘Right in the Eyes’, that, while it is permissible for the subject to star into the lens–at the spectator–in a still photograph, ‘it is forbidden for an actor to look at the camera’ in a movie. So convinced was Barthes of his own rule that he as ‘not far from considering this ban as the cinema’s distinctive feature…. If a single gaze from the screen came to rest on me, the whole film would be lost.’

Either the quotation is doing Barthes no favours, or Barthes is a silly man who hasn’t seen enough movies. “Don’t look at the camera!” cries Francis Ford Coppola in APOCALYPSE NOW, playing a documentary director, ignoring the fact that in documentaries (which are, arguably, movies), characters looking at the camera actually ENHANCES the realism. It’s when they’re too good at pretending it isn’t there that the fly-on-the-wall approach starts to seem artificial, staged.

Nevertheless, in fiction films it’s true that there’s a convention — which only means that those, quite frequent moments when the rule is broken always seem mildly unconventional. In a mainstream film, the effect is noted, and the ticket-buyer says, “OK, this is a little unusual, but as long as the filmmaker doesn’t get too crazy, I’m going to allow it.”

My favourite video store story: two young men looking at prospective rentals. One picks up the Christian Slater vehicle KUFFS. The other says he’s seen it. “Any good.” “Aye, awright.” “Much action in it?” A micro-pause. “Ah… he talks to the camera.” Said as if this were, arguably, a form of action.

In BILLY LIAR, Julie’s lapse is momentary and obviously unintentional, but in good movies even flaws are good. This scene is already breaking from Billy’s POV, which makes it a violation of the movie’s own rules. If Julie is exceptional enough to merit a scene of her own, away from the prying eyes of the POV character, and devoid of any fundamental narrative purpose (well, it’s introducing Julie, swinging her handbag, and that’s ENOUGH), then surely she’s allowed to sneak a peek at camera operator Jack Atchelor. She’s Julie Christie, she has special privileges.

Inaugurating a little season considering some looks to camera, and what they might mean.

The Sunday Intertitle: Jolly Grimm

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on May 4, 2014 by dcairns

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A swellegant intertitle from THE WILD PARTY, which I haven’t seen but which looks rather gorgeous. But isn’t it a roman a clef on the Fatty Arbuckle case in which Arbuckle is presumed guilty? I’ll have to watch it to find out. It sort of fits into The Seventies Look Back, being an AIP picture set in the late jazz age, but James Ivory’s relationship to the New Hollywood is tenuous at best. (How weird to think of Merchant-Ivory working for AIP!) DAY OF THE LOCUST is a better match, since Schlesinger also made MIDNIGHT COWBOY, which is seminal pre-seventies New Hollywood, and his HONKY TONK FREEWAY is a good example of the way the era combusted.

Next week I suspect I’ll be shuffling between posts carrying on the 70s thing, with other more random stuff, and then on Wednesday I leave for The Toronto Jewish Film Festival. Canuck Shadowplayers are advised to meet me at the screenings of NATAN on the 8th and 11th.

On Tuesday I’m aiming to squeeze in my second video intro for a Masters of Cinema Blu-ray. I didn’t tell you about the first yet, did I? I will!