Archive for Local Hero

Local Call

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on June 18, 2019 by dcairns

New from Criterion!

I had the great pleasure of sitting down to an interview with writer-director-lovely-man Bill Forsyth, which will feature as part of the bumper package of extras included on this disc, available Sept 24.

Who did Burt Lancaster like chatting with? Should dogs be dubbed? Who was Peter Capaldi in a band with? What were the alternative endings? These and other questions may well be answered in the final edit… if they aren’t, ask me later.

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Vanishing Points

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on June 7, 2019 by dcairns

A week ago today I was interviewing Bill Forsyth, for the second time in my life. I can now safely say I recommend the experience. Not sure I can reveal yet what the interview was about, though hints seem to have leaked out online.

This morning I’m off to the BF Archive, which should be fun. A secret mission to scan some mysterious polaroids whose very existence was unknown to their owner…

In preparation for meeting the Great Man I rewatched some of his films and visited one I’d never seen, BEING HUMAN, which is better than I’d heard — in fact, excellent. I’ll try to describe why later.

I also very much enjoyed HOUSEKEEPING, which I hadn’t seen since its release — once in a while I’d glimpsed bits of it on Film4 and thought, “That looks beautiful, I must watch it again.” A good thing about being a part-time critic is you get prompts to do the kind of things you want to do anyway.

I complimented Bill on the closing shot, which is absolutely beautiful and really haunting. “Darkness all around them!” said Fiona when she saw it. And Bill launched into a story, even though we were no longer filming. Here it is.

“We couldn’t find a bridge,” said Bill. They wanted a particular kind of railway bridge in a particular location. As with the town/beach combination of LOCAL HERO, it proved impossible. So they built part of one.

This worked fine for all the side views. But when it came to the end shot, there wasn’t enough length to make it dramatic. The characters just ran along for five or so seconds then had to stop.

In the cutting room, ace editor Michael Ellis said, “Don’t worry.”

So, what he did was, he duplicated the shot, reduced in size, and planted the miniature version in the centre of frame. Since it was a vanishing point kind of perspective, the angles matched up. The bridge now appeared to disappear into infinity.

When the two protagonists run down the bridge, they get masked out by the soft edge of the inserted reduced shot, then they run into view as miniature versions of themselves in that hidden frame-within-the-frame. What the audience sees is a kind of shimmer as the full-size figures dissolve into the smaller-size figures, but you can’t really make out enough to be confused. The effect is smooth: the two actors run off into infinity.

(So that HOUSEKEEPING’s ending is a brilliant innovation, a poetic rescue job, as was LOCAL HERO’s phone box ring.)

“You don’t get enough credit as a special effects filmmaker,” I told Bill, awestruck.

“It took Mike Ellis about a week to explain to me what he was going to do!”

George’s Hidden Talent

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , on October 3, 2017 by dcairns

George Raft has a bath in NIGHT AFTER NIGHT.

Highly recommend the late Eddie Fowlie’s autobiography, David Lean’s Dedicated Maniac: Memoirs of a Film Specialist. It lives up to the title. Here’s one of the  milder anecdotes from the set of the 1951 Italian-shot B picture I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS, starring George Raft.

“George Raft had been a discrete presence for much of the shoot but one incident more than made up for it. One evening during a lull in filming a few of us, including Raft, got together for a few drinks and some banter. As the night wore on the laughter got louder and the boasts about sexual exploits more improbable, until George suddenly stood up and said, “I’m going to show you guys how I got to be a success,” whereupon he undid his trouser buttons and laid his ample member on the table. He was quite right — it was obvious why he had been a success. It also put a swift end to some of the unlikely claims which had peppered the conversation up to that point, most notably from the Italian bright sparks who shut up altogether upon witnessing George’s hidden talent.”

This surprised me because I’d heard the exact same story told about Burt Lancaster on the set of LOCAL HERO, the punchline being “And THAT’S how you survive in Hollywood,” the story passed down from one Scottish crew member to another until it reached me. So possibly it was a repurposed George Raft anecdote given a Scottish slant by overzealous nationalists. Or possibly both incidents really happened, independently, both Burt and George having the same impressive physical attributes and exhibitionist tendencies. Or just possibly, Eddie Fowlie told the story to Burt on the set of THE CRIMSON PIRATE, which happened to be his very next film. And Burt filed the story away for reenactment thirty years later, the meaty slap of dick on tabletop echoing through cinema history…