Archive for Sir Christopher Frayling

Hitting the Wall

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2018 by dcairns

One usually hits a wall halfway through any intensive film festival, and Tuesday may have been ours. We saw lots of good stuff but didn’t make it to things we definitely had wanted to see, and I started a Luciano Emmer film and found I didn’t have enough concentration left to see it through.

We had planned a lie in, but couldn’t sleep so we headed to the Jolly for Raoul Walsh’s rowdy service romp WOMEN OF ALL NATIONS. Some thought it a weak entry, but I’m still impressed that they managed to get laughs out of El Brendel, world’s unfunniest dialect comedian. When jealous boyfriend Olaf, the strongest man in Sweden, appears, El B’s delivery of the line “It’s Olaf. And it’s all off,” lacks his usual smugness and really hit the funnybone on the head.

Plus Bela Lugosi as a cuckolded Arab prince.

This was followed by John Stahl’s SEED, introduced by Imogen Smith, who provided lots of interesting analysis of a slow but fascinating early entry in Stahl’s series of low-key melodramas on marriage and infidelity. “I hope you enjoy SEED.” We came to see Bette Davis playing a juvenile role, and stayed for the weird, ambivalent sexual politics. The film also finally made sense of the otherwise elusive appeal of John Boles. “You’re my measuring stick,” says one of the women in his life. And I can see how he’d be good for that, His head alone must be a good foot long.

Boles was back in SIX HOURS TO LIVE, supporting the equally rigid Warner Baxter, another man whose origin and purpose are still a total mystery. Raised from the dead by mad science, he might as well have not bothered. I call this one GRAVE-DIGGERS OF 1932. William Dieterle spent his time at Warners kicking against the regime of fast-paced delivery and short runtimes. Fox let him spread out a bit more, and the results in this one are a bit lugubrious at times, but with some genuinely exciting cinematic effects. A livelier cast would have pushed it over into greatness, but as it is, it’s enjoyably weird, and SIX HOURS TO LIVE did afford me half an hour of napping.

But you can’t see everything — maybe we should have gone to the 1918 TARZAN OF THE APES, or Zurlini’s CRONICA FAMILIARE with Mastroianni, and I’m sad we missed Pabst’s GEHEIMNISVOLLE TIEFE. We did listen to a lovely talk by Sir Christopher Professor Frayling about ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, but were too shattered to actually go see the film in the Piazza, which would have taken us up to around 1am, I reckon. By eating a leisurely dinner and hitting the sack, we hope to blast through some Maurice Tourneur, Segundo de Chomon, Henri Diamant-Berger, Sydney Chaplin, Mario Monicelli and Frank Borzage tomorrow. Wish us luck!

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Something to do with Death

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , on June 3, 2011 by dcairns

Heard something rather remarkable today from Rod Stoneman, formerly of Channel 4 and the Irish Film Board. He heard it from documentarist Murray Grigor and, independently, from Sir Christopher Professor Frayling, biographer of Sergio Leone. The event concerned is covered in Frayling’s excellent Leone bio, Sergio Leone: Something to do with Death, but oddly this detail is kind of buried in the text, almost as if Frayling didn’t see the cosmic irony of it.

As Frayling describes it, maestro Leone died in bed watching TV with his wife. His heart just stopped beating. He put his head on her shoulder and said “I’m sorry, I don’t feel well.” Then he died. His last words have the poignant simplicity of the kid’s line in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA ~ “I slipped.”

What Frayling inexplicably undersells is the name of the film the Leones were watching.

Robert Wise’s I WANT TO LIVE!

This is a pretty striking trick for fate to pull. I’m reminded that when James Whale committed suicide by drowning in his own pool, the book he left out was ~

But in that case, the sardonic sense of humour, if that’s what it was, belonged to Whale, who was noted for his macabre puckishness. In the case of Leone, the mocking laughter is not of human origin.

Quote of the Day: Upping the ante-rooms

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2008 by dcairns

Legendary production designer Ken Adam discusses designing the Marquess of Queensbury’s reception room for THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE, after the budget had run out:

“Well, it was hard because a) the money had run out and b) I didn’t have time to do research about what Queensbury’s castle in Scotland looked like. So what I decided to do was a complete stylisation using all the classical elements of the St. James’s Theatre and the Café Royal. The only new design element was a very tall, slender French window with a circular top at the end of the set. Then I used Georgian doors from the St James’s and I painted the whole floor like Siena marble. I had a very good painter and it was beautifully done. Then I had the idea of treating the set in two colours only — terracotta for the walls, and everything else in black — because it was after the funeral. I talked the director, Ken Hughes, into dressing all tyhe actors in black. And the whole set was built in a forced perspective. It was the first time that I got recognition for my work from the critics and others: Luchino Visconti was President of the Moscow Film Festival in 1961 and he gave me first prize for best design.”

a) Adam often seems to have done his best work in desperate circumstances. The strongest, strangest set in DR. NO, the first of the many Bond films he designed, is the bare room with the round skylight — Dr. No’s ante-room. It was built for £450 as an afterthought, and it supplies the just note of stylisation that later Bond films built from.

No room

b) Ken Hughes is an underrated filmmaker and I must do more about him. I’m hoping the forthcoming BBC series on British B-movies will show some of his cheapies. I find his bloated extravaganzas like CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and CROMWELL rather endearing, but I have a feeling his best work might lie in his low-budget crime thriller output. I haven’t even managed to see the bigger-budget extensions of that, JOE MACBETH and THE SMALL WORLD OF SAMMY LEE.

c) My friend Lawrie once loaned a flat to Hughes and got complaints from the landlady about some kind of unspeakable parties… Lawrie called Hughes “the dirtiest man i ever met.” All simply too, too intriguing!

d) The quote up top comes from Ken Adam The Art of Production Design by the esteemed Professor Sir Christopher Frayling. I know that’s the correct way to give him his titles, but I have a sneaking preference for “Sir Christopher Professor Frayling” and I have a feeling that if I ever meet the poor man that’s what I’ll call him, whether I intend to our not.

Ken

Ken Adam.