Archive for Natan

New York a Go-Go

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2015 by dcairns

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Since NATAN, the film Paul Duane and I made, is an unconventional length (not a short, but very short for a feature), the New York Jewish Film Festival wisely double-billed it with HOW TO BREAK INTO YIDDISH VAUDEVILLE, which is completely unlike it in every way but somehow complimented it sweetly. I don’t think you’d want another heavy subject to go with NATAN, so Jack Feldstein’s “neon animation” about a midwestern gentile who’s taught himself Yiddish and is carrying on the proud tradition of yiddisher vaudeville, was a perfect aperitif. It’s witty, quirky and poignant, since all the old stagers who taught Shane Baker their routines are now no longer with us.

Due to the predicted snowpocalypse, our flight the day before was cancelled so we flew into NYC on the day of the screening and were whisked to the venue only a couple of hours before the show started. Managed to stay awake for both screenings though I think my performance at the first q&a was probably a bit livelier/more coherent that at the second, which must have been around 3am UK time.

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Returned to the Walter Reade Theater the following evening to see Hilla Medalia’s THE GO-GO BOYS: THE INSIDE STORY OF CANNON FILMS, which was hilarious, insightful and educational. It also connected up with my life and work in surprising ways. Let me enumerate:

1) I was just becoming conscious of film as a business in my teens when Cannon had their heyday, ultimately buying up EMI’s film production arm and the ABC cinema chain (which owned half the mainstream cinemas in the UK). I saw several of the BBC documentaries and news reports quoted in the documentary when they first aired, regarding the ebullient producers with a certain horror at the time. Now, even their trashiest productions seems relatively benign and the films they made while seeking to class up their reputation form a rather startling array. Cassavetes’ LOVE STREAMS, Zefferelli’s OTELLO, Godard’s KING LEAR: FEAR AND LOATHING, Mailer’s TOUGH GUYS DON’T DANCE, Ruiz’s TREASURE ISLAND, Polanski’s PIRATES… What were they thinking? But I’m glad those movies exist, and if the only production companies around were sane, they wouldn’t.

2) There’s a very weird connection with NATAN. When Golan & Globus overextended themselves, the white knight riding to their rescue and bailing them out was Giancarlo Parretti. This new alliance created a wedge between money-raising Globus and money-spending Golan, who left seeking independence. Parretti and Globus then tried to buy MGM, with money that turned out not to exist. Parretti had been laundering money for the Mafia, and went to jail. What boggled my mind was the film’s description of Parretti as the head of Pathe, which creates uncanny parallels with the story of Bernard Natan (also jailed for fraud). But what THE GO-GO BOYS doesn’t make quite clear is that Parretti never actually owned Pathe, although he planned to, and renamed Cannon “Pathe Communications” in anticipation of this.

3) Menahem Golan directed the one entry in the ’68 Cannes Film Festival (the festival that never happened) which Scout Tafoya and myself were unable to track down for our retrospective series The ’68 Comeback Special (here and here). TEVYE AND HIS SEVEN DAUGHTERS is based on the same stories that inspired FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. Having failed to source a copy via legitimate means or by the Dark Internet, I suggested Scout try Golan himself, which he did. The veteran filmmaker did not have a copy of his own film. (He’s dead now.)

Well, in THE GO-GO BOYS there’s a few seconds from the film, proving that it does at least still exist, at least in the German version. Someday, we shall complete The ’68 Comeback Special. Shalom!

Ants in Your Plants of 1941

Posted in FILM, weather with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2015 by dcairns

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Today I was supposed to be in New York but flight got pushed back. Something to do with a slight snowfall. Daniel Riccuito of The Chiseler reports that the sky is basically solid snowflakes, drifting UPWARDS. Which sounds fine — the ground will be cleared in no time. It’s just the sky you have to worry about. Walk in a crouch, New York, and you’ll be alright. But I can see how an atmosphere composed entirely of frozen water would make air traffic problematic.

So I go tomorrow, arriving at the Walter Reade Theater hopefully just in time for the 3,15 screening of NATAN as part of the New York Jewish Film Festival. I will be lugging my luggage, tired and wired, but hopefully coherent enough for a cogent Q&A. And then another screening 8.45 the same day. Hope to see you there, weather permitting.

Meanwhile, there is time to tell you about SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS, on Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection. I made a video essay for this, aided by editor Stephen Horne and graphic designer Danny Carr who gets a special shout-out here for an amazing 40s-style animated title sequence, sampled above. Since the Coen Brothers swiped one title from John L. Sullivan’s fictional filmography (O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?) I wanted to grab another. It was this or HEY-HEY IN THE HAY LOFT. The conversations then came to be about what a title for such a film might consist of. Danny surpassed all expectations by combining the pull-back-thru-lettering device of THE PALM BEACH STORY with the animated characters of THE LADY EVE, all in a convincing early forties style despite working with computer rather than cel animation. I’m blown away by his work.

The piece also features an interview with Bill Forsyth, a fan of the film who explains how it influenced him. This was folded into my script after I wrote it, much as I did with Richard Lester’s interview for my A HARD DAY’S NIGHT piece. One of these days I’ll manage to do the interview first and then write the VO around it, like a sane person.

You can pre-order this magnificent product here —

Sullivan’s Travels [Blu-ray]

I’m really chuffed with how it turned out!

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The Event

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , on November 28, 2014 by dcairns

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La Femis is the French national film school. It’s based on the Rue Francoeur in Montmartre, in what used to be the studios of Rapid Film, Bernard Natan’s production company. When he bought Pathe Cinema he merged the two companies together.

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The building still has its unique 1920s/30s character. The buildings surround a narrow lane into which the companies trucks could make their deliveries. From the balcony on the second floor you can look down on the works and feel like an emperor of cinema. Here, Marine Multier, Chargee de la communication, surveys her kingdom.

Down in the alley there are memorials to the dead of two world wars, studio employees who gave their lives for France, but until this week there was nothing making mention of the man who created the studio and who also died during WWII — a victim of Germany and France working together to destroy him because of his race.

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It has taken fifteen years of campaigning by the family to get the plaque put up. Things were slow because the French state owns th building so it’s all bureaucracy and committees that meet once a year. It took less than a year to strip Natan of his French citizenship, earned by service in WWI (he was wounded and decorated for bravery: they had to pass a special act to take away his citizenship), thereby rendering him stateless and ensuring his deportation to Auschwitz. But I guess that’s one difference between democracy and dictatorship: democracies move slower.

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Patient under his black curtain, Bernard Natan awaits his unveiling.

 

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