Archive for Karel Reisz

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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Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2010 by dcairns

A student of mine once revealed that a friend of his dad’s was some kind of a film director. “His name’s Karel Reisz. I know he did something called SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING. Is that any good?”

I told him it was, and filled him in slightly on the movie, including the catchphrase quoted above. “That came from his movie?” asked the student. Well, really it came from Alan Sillitoe and his book, but it’s great that Reisz helped popularize it, make it part of everyday philosophy like that.

Reisz’s last work has been lurking in my unwatched pile for quite a while — Samuel Beckett’s Act Without Words I, directed by Reisz (who hadn’t worked for some years, and may already have been ill) for a compendium of Beckett adaptations (Atom Egoyan’s Krapp’s Last Tape with John Hurt is rather good).

Maybe I was too influenced by the knowledge that Beckett was influenced by Buster Keaton’s SHERLOCK JNR, but I had trouble adjusting to the look and feel of Reisz’s version. In a blue-skied studio desert, a nameless, wordless man (Sean Foley) is tormented by his environment, which dangles a bottle of water just out of reach, offers him boxes to help him to climb to the suspended drink, then raises the drink further up. He’s a silent comedy version of Tantalus, imprisoned in a Hell of eternally frustrated desires. Even suicide is denied him, a hangman’s branch folding up uselessly when he approaches with an improvised noose.

Foley is quite good, throwing himself around the set with some athleticism, his face a mask of suffering — comedy is undercut. But the framing and cutting don’t have Keaton’s absolute clarity. In a world where objects shift about in obedience to some malign disembodied whim, it’s no good for Reisz to allow the hanging beaker of water to slip out of frame for long periods — we can’t assume it’s still there if we can’t see it. When the narrative point is that the water is unreachable, including a little dune in the foreground which makes it look as if the man could leap from it to catch the water, is a serious compositional blunder.

Even the dayglo sky, which I found not too attractive in itself, betrays some visible wrinkles in one shot. If they’d been like the creased diorama of FRANKENSTEIN’s blasted heath, I might have liked them, but they just seem like a flaw in something that’s already ugly. Compared to the lovely low-res video of Beckett’s own German TV work, this wasn’t what I’d call pretty.

For Reisz at his best, try the above-mentioned Albert Finney kitchen sink drama, as well as MORGAN: A SUITABLE CASE FOR TREATMENT, with a superb David Warner, and THE GAMBLER, a really strong James Caan piece, epitomizing 70s New Hollywood despair, written by James Toback.

UK: Morgan, A Suitable Case For Treatment [DVD]

Beckett On Film [DVD]