Archive for Richard Lester

Symposium

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2017 by dcairns

Up at 6.am. Edinburgh to York train at 6.55.

As a lecturer, I’m encouraged to do what is called “research” — but as I teach on a practical filmmaking course, nothing that would constitute research for me — stuff I could use in my practice — qualifies as academic research. But when Neil Sinyard notified me that there was a symposium on British cinema in the sixties, and that Richard Lester was taking part, I naturally wanted to go, so I offered a paper, and to my surprise it got accepted.

Richard Lester is appearing at the London bit of the programme next week, my paper was in the York section. So, two trips. Then I found out that, as a “teaching fellow,” I’m not actually required to do any research at all. Nobody had told me. This is possibly good news, except it leaves me in the dark as to whether I can claim expenses back. Too late now.

Sunny day. York is lovely. I haven’t been since I was a kid, and all I remember is the Cathedral, which stays out of sight this time. Taxi to campus because I don’t want to worry about getting lost. All the way there I see nothing later than the Victorian era, except the cars. And then the campus is completely brand new, and of course deserted (summer holidays).

I’m giving a paper on screenwriter Charles Wood (CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, top image), which I’ll doubtless post here later. Right away I meet someone I know, my editor from Electric Sheep magazine, who’s presenting a paper on Michael Reeves using her secret identity. I’m slightly worried because I don’t really know what a symposium looks like. Will we be in a theatre with a podium or some kind of boardroom? Apparently it’s both — I can choose which bit to attend, as there are parallel talks going on at once, Reluctantly I pass up Michael Reeves to hear about Joseph Losey.

We get coffee and lunch and beer/wine, which makes it a pretty nice gathering, even though I don’t know what a symposium is. I get to talking to two men both called Martin Hall. “You’ve lost your identity,” says a Martin Hall, and I agree, but he points at the floor, where my name card has fallen out of my badge. I’m now wearing a translucent panel on my chest, the kind of ID the invisible man might wear.

The second strange coincidence, following on from meeting someone I know under a different name, is learning that the continuity girl on Losey’s FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE was called Connie Willis. On the train down, I’d started reading To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. A different Connie Willis. Time-travel comedy inspired by Jerome K. Jerome. Very hard to make anything of this synchronicity, except that time travel books are always about continuity, aren’t they?

I had been concerned that my presentation — I’d written as essay, probably too long, and was going to read it out — might not fit with what was expected, but it seemed to be roughly along the right lines. Some people had been poking about in archives — fascinatingly, all the correspondence from Film Finances, Britain’s biggest completion bond guarantor, is now available for research, but others had been talking to survivors of the era. One fascinating talk dealt with Peter Whitehead’s muses, one of whom was into trepanning, that ancient Egyptian practice whereby you bore a hole in yourself and let the sap run out. Some bloody images were shown. Whitehead had attempted to film his partner aerating her skull, but fainted, according to one account.

I shared the stage with a paper on widescreen style in THE IPCRESS FILE, which amounted to a strong defense of flamboyant style in British filmmaking.

My paper seemed to be well received! It was seen as odd that I was delivering this paper at the home of the Charles Wood Archive, but had not been to see it. I think that’s odd too — just didn’t have time. Hopefully I’ll find out I can claim expenses on it and can come back soon. At any rate, gratification was expressed that someone was paying attention to this important, criminally neglected artist.

The sun set all the way home ~

 

On the bus from the railway station to the chip shop, I sat behind a man with a livid X-shaped cut right on the apex of his cranium, in the centre of his bald spot, stitches visible. Had he been trepanned? It looked exactly like the bloody images I’d just seen. Strange coincidence No. 3.

Next week — London, Lester, Tushingham, Sandy Lieberson, PETULIA at the BFI Southbank!

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Last Ciggie at Marienbad

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , on September 1, 2017 by dcairns

So, yesterday I posted what I take to be Richard Lester’s MARIENBAD-inspired Grant’s Whiskey commercials, and WITHIN THE HOUR I get word on Facebook from Steven Otero — he has the L&M cigarettes ad Lester mentioned in his Sight & Sound interview with Joseph McBride, which is also a Resnais pastiche. Very much so, in fact!

Lester: “I made a rather odd L&M commercial. John Schlesinger, Karel Reisz and I each made one of a series.”

McBride: “What was yours like?”

Lester: “It was like Marienbad. Why they came to me I don’t know. They said they wanted something which was absolutely me and suggested something that was absolutely Resnais. But, eclectic to the end, I sort of pitched in.”

I guess that architectural plan way of looking at buildings DOES connect Resnais and Lester — the palace scenes in THREE MUSKETEERS, for instance.

I’m not sure Mr. Lester really wants all this stuff dug up. It was meant to be ephemeral.

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.