Archive for Wendy Hiller

The charity shops are open again

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2020 by dcairns

My favourite is St Columba’s Bookstore.

Kevin Brownlow’s book on Gance’s NAPOLEON is amazing — the wealth of stills, and detail. Breathtaking.

Maybe I’d see The Autobiography of British Cinema about in the past but hadn’t looked into it because I didn’t know what it was. It’s collected interviews in fact, with everyone from John Addison to Freddie Young. Lovely for dipping into. Here’s Wendy Hiller:

“Carol Reed was not an intellectual, he saw life entirely visually, through little squares, as did David Lean.”

Here’s Thora Hird, in her eighties (most of her stuff is grumbling about early mornings):

“I liked working with Larry [Olivier] because we got on well, but there were little things about him that annoyed me. For a start, if I had to do complimentaries (standing off-camera giving him my lines while the took his close-ups), I would have to be in at eight-thirty in the morning for make-up because Larry insisted everyone be in character, even if they weren’t on camera. I asked him about it, and he told me he couldn’t act to the character if he was looking at meas me. I told him that everyone thought he could have done the scene without me even being there.”

Thora also says that she calls all her directors “Mr. De Grunwald,” “and they know I do it with respect.”

Glenn Mitchell’s A – Z of Silent Cinema is terrific. I had the feeling it might be useful sometime, also.

Charlton Heston’s memoir might also be useful for a potential upcoming project, but is interesting anyway. He seems like a dick, though.

Goddamn this War! is a WWI epic graphic novel by Jacques Tardi. Extremely grim and exhausting, but remarkable.

David Bordwell & Kristin Thompson’s Film History is sure to come in handy as well as being a readable and awe-inspiringly comprehensive work. I bought it because I’d never encountered the Sergio Leone quote where he calls Ennio Morricone “my scriptwriter.”

Three short stories by Shirley Jackson which I was almost certain I already owned in another collection, but the book was 50p and it turns out I was wrong. Read two last night and they’re excellent, of course.

Richard Schickel’s Conversations with Scorsese is fine and all, and covers stuff not in my copy of Scorsese on Scorsese. There are lots of bits where MS says something intriguing and I was rooting for RS to press him for more detail. No such luck.

Thurber’s Dogs. No explanation required, I assume.

Russell Hoban’s Turtle Diaries — I love Riddley Walker and liked several of his late books and am intrigued. Saw Ben Kingsley talk about making the film version once. Great talker, that man.

Irish Ghost Stories is tremendously fat, and has a very large amount of Sheridan LeFanu in it, which is no bad thing.

Movies: I hesitated about THE TRAIN on Blu-ray as I own a DVD but it’s a fine-looking film and the sterling array of extras provided by Arrow decided me. I didn’t hesitate on THE WILD BUNCH. I thought I owned THE ILLUSIONIST but didn’t, so now I do. TO THE SEA AND THE LAND BEYOND seems epic, and Penny Woolcock is revered among documentarists so I should check it out: the BFI provides quirky extras. THE WRONG BOX isn’t altogether satisfying but has great bits. I had an old DVD of LA DOLCE VITA in the wrong ratio so this is an upgrade.

Now I just have to find time to consume this stuff.

Euphoria #34: IKWIG!

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2008 by dcairns


Apologies to a couple of people who’ve suggested clips for our ongoing Cinema Euphoria project but haven’t had them show up yet, but — have you noticed? — we have a bit of a theme going on this week.

Yes, it has turned into a week of Scottish Euphoria (two words that seldom go together). Starting with THE WICKER MAN and carrying on through GREGORY’S GIRL and A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH — not itself a Scottish film in any way, but an excuse for some anecdotes from assistant director Lawrie Knight, who was born and died here in Edinburgh. I’m not sure how I can shoehorn THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS into this theme, but with enough ingenuity anything should be possible.

So today we continue in a similar vein with a prize extract from I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING!, another film from the Powell-Pressburger team.

IKWIG, as we shall henceforth be calling it, takes place largely on a fictional version of the island of Mull, and still attracts tourists to that part of the world. Perhaps not quite as many as LOCAL HERO, but a few. (Curiously, both movies feature iconic public telephone boxes.) Here we find Wendy Hiller on her way to marry Consolidated Chemical Industries, before fate intervenes, proving that while we may THINK we know where we’re going, the forces of the universe are always capable of radically altering our plans.

The folk song that gives IKWIG its title, and which plays in this scene, may be strangely familiar even to non-aficionados of traditional song, especially if they are fans of Nicholas Ray. Ray’s debut feature, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, uses the same theme in its opening titles, testament to the folk-music advice of Ray’s friend Woody Guthrie, who assisted, uncredited, with the selection of music.

Oh yes! The clip was suggested by filmmaker and writer Mary Gordon, who wrote:

I also love the bonkers dream scene from I know where i’m going when the train seems to travel amongst tartan-covered breasts – or am i just making that up? And just generally in that film having a female character who is frankly unlikeable and not scared to be unlikeable…

We then debated whether the tartan breasts were in fact breasts or just Lollobrigidian hills, and I put it to all of you that one of them has a tunnel in it, ergo it’s a HILL.

Agree about the heroine, she’s tough and cold and very very stubborn BUT there’s still something positive there. I think Powell and Pressburger were very skilled and imaginative about finding sympathy for even quite monstrous characters: I adore Wendy in this film, as I adore Lermontov and Sister Ruth and Mark Lewis in Powell’s PEEPING TOM. Maybe Wendy Hiller is appealing here because she breaks all the rules about how women are supposed to behave in romantic movies, and that makes her refreshing company. Screenwriters take note: movie characters are different from real people in that what they mainly should be is surprising and stimulating. I don’t generally choose real-life friends for their ability to give me conniptions, but I certainly don’t want to spend my movie-viewing time with a lot of placid, lovely people. I need brazen nutters!

IKWIG was our friend Lawrie’s favourite Powell and Pressburger film, even though he didn’t work on it. I think he liked its relative modesty, compared to the overheated, un-British intensity of BLACK NARCISSUS and THE RED SHOES. I think, also, that he managed to convince himself that those classics he worked on were really not so very great — and he maintained this illusion until any time he caught a glimpse of one, and then he would be blown away all over again by how undeniably staggeringly gorgeous they are.