Tuesday 31 March 2009

Digital Leone

Saw a digital screening of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly yesterday. I'd never watched the entire film before and I'm so glad I kept that experience for the big screen. Absolutely brilliant. Leone's use of close ups is just fantastic and the first 10 minutes or so of the film have no dialogue, over two scenes - Lee Van Cleef's entrance and subsequent meal with his target is gripping. Fantastic frame compositions, particularly in the first hour of the film (almost painterly, particularly when Angel Eyes interrogates Bill Carson's girl and when Tuco arrives back at his gang's subterranean hideout).

One thing which really struck me was that while Clint Eastwood is the most recognisable and commercially exploited figure in the film, this is really Eli Wallach's film. He's it's star, to me. Tuco is in the majority of the scenes and Clint's Blondie always seems to be orbiting Tuco somehow. God bless Eli Wallach. The man is in his 90's and is still acting regularly. He and Ernest Borgnine should get cast together in something.

Beautiful digital "print". The few scratches seemed to originate on the fairly clean print used for the transfer, but the graininess of the optical titles and transitions was more noticeable. But lovely, nonetheless. It's nice to see a classic movie in a cinema without the overt scratchiness associated with the change of reels. Here's hoping the Edinburgh Cineworld keeps up it's Monday Classic screenings in future, although there seems to be nothing scheduled for next week. DVD is convenient, but these films should be seen in a cinema.

Goodnight Lorne

Two obit posts in as many days. Bugger.

Some folks might not have known who Andy Hallett was, but as a fan of Angel I knew him as the demonic host Krevlornswath. Or just Lorne, the flamboyant and showbiz nightclub owner. Angel seems to have been the dominant part of his tragically short acting career and he always lit up the episodes he appeared in.

He'd had heart trouble for some time, apparently, but you'd think that we'd be medically on top of this sort of thing these days. Poor guy. I may have to watch There's No Place Like Plirtz Glirb, one of his best episodes of Angel, later today.

Monday 30 March 2009

Maurice Jarre

Sad about the death of Maurice Jarre at 84. I loved his music as a child. I found much of it eerily beautiful and still do. Lara's Theme always reminds me of a strange little clockwork ballroom dancing couple trapped in a caraf at my great Aunt's who would foxtrot to a music box version of that theme. It always seemed to be the tune played by the ice cream van as well. Such are the strange memories of childhood when considering such a great contributor to cinema as Jarre.

And then there was this...

Thank you, Monsieur Jarre.

Sunday 15 March 2009

The Perfect AD Campaign?

I found this over at CHUD this morning. It's either cinematic commercial suicide or inspired advertising.

It treads a fine line between desperation and inspiration. You won, boys. I'm intrigued.

Thursday 12 March 2009

Hitch 1 - The Pleasure Garden

The mighty and terrifyingly knowledgeable David Cairns, over at the magnificent film blog, Shadowplay, has been watching a Hitchcock film a week, starting back at the beginning of the year - 50 films over 52 weeks I believe - to kind of mark the anniversary of his blog (I think). And I said I'd try to join in, being a Hitchcock fan and wanting to know more about the man and his early films.

Well, me being me, this has not really come to pass. I wanted to keep up week for week but a combination of my usual sloth, unavoidable circumstances and the non-availability of some of the films led to my desire to join in falling by the wayside (as a schoolboy, I was usually content not to join in popular activities. Usually).

But! I have decided to renew my attempts to keep up. I managed to track down a DVD of Hitchcock's first film, The Pleasure Garden, a while back and gave it a spin. And so I going to catch up as best I can and keep up; Read-a-long-a-Hitch, as David put it.

There are those who'd argue that The Pleasure Garden was not Hitchcock's first film and they might cite Number Thirteen as his first. But that wasn't finished and I'm not sure if it still exists (someone can correct me or back me up on that), so I consider that argument a pile of old wank. There were a number of films after that which Hitchcock either co-directed or is listed as doing "Scenario" for. But The Pleasure Garden seems to be the one which he himself listed as his first feature film. And so there I have begun.

The cover of the DVD was a bit misleading, summarising the story as a scandal laden tale where a successful dancer falls to wealth and vice, endangering her life! This isn't quite the case with the film. It does involve a dancing girl, Patsy, who finds fame and forgets those who love her but the story seems to change tack halfway through, focusing more on Jill, who helped her get her break and the subsequent love triangle centre around Jill, her unfaithful and slothful husband and Patsy's fiance. I found it to be a bit of a morality tale, albeit possibly titillating for its time. Patsy doesn't seem to learn any lessons and seems to be forgotten by the end of the film. A bit like a modern Simpsons episode, where you build up one storyline only to veer off in another direction.

The opening sequence, establishing Jill and the other dancers, was interesting to me for a couple of reasons. Older men, in dickie bows, sit leering at the dancers from the stalls. Hitchcock focuses on one in particular, who takes a real shine to Jill and meets her backstage.

He leers at her through his opera glasses, mugging it up pre-Sid James, eyes bulging, lusty smile. Hitchcock cuts to his POV through the glasses and I immediately thought that this was Hitch putting his early stamp on the film, as his use of the male gaze and general voyeurism would reappear many times in his future films where he would have much more creative control. The Blond preoccupation could be seen to be appearing early on here as well, with the old chap expressing his delight at her golden locks, only to have his lust smote when she pulls a lock of ringlets out and offers it to the old chap, proving it's only a wig. The blond lock does seem a bit worm-like and his revulsion is amusing.

The other part about this which caught my attention was how much this old letch reminded me of a Ronnie Barker comedy character. Not one in particular, but The Two Ronnies would often feature period and silent sketches and Barker, all eyeliner and comedy grimaces, would stop me every time. I can't watch the opening of this film now without smiling a little more than I might have before.

Next up should be The Mountain Eagle, but I don't think any copies of that are known to exist. So it's on to YouTube for a squint at The Lodger.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

...More Than He Can Chew?

Well, looking at some of the things I'm working on, I see some of them may be collaborations. As well as my spec short I've been writing, my feature idea (not quite at outline stage yet) and a short I've been trying to edit for a few years now (unacceptable, I know) there are now two more potential projects, one of which looks like it might happen (it's funded too so it'll get made, but it's unpaid) and another which has been thrown my way, which hasn't been set in stone but is appealing as a cross genre piece.

Both of these projects have differing levels of excitement, one of them especially so as it has the potential to get my name out there as a writer as it is going to be entered into loads of festivals - exciting but also means that I really want to apply myself to this one.

Might buy a desk planner to try and get some organisation down on paper. And then adhere to it. Which will be the challenge.

But, creative times ahead. Even if I do need a paid job pretty damn desperately.


Monday 9 March 2009

Fresh Start

Well, what a couple of weeks. I'll say no more other than we gave our good friend Neil a hell of a send off last week and that now is the time to get on with things, as he would have done. In fact, he'd have started by now. Spring is in the air (blown along by that bastard wind that's been assaulting us of late), it's daylight when I get up now and the desire to get on with things is greater than ever.

So, I'm writing a new short. A supernatural drama dealing with grief - just in case anyone is wondering, I got the idea long before I even knew my friend was ill. It's a tad Twilight Zone-esque, and I'm hoping what might seem like a twist at the moment will seem more natural onscreen. Twists in shorts can be so predictable and I want to avoid that in this instance. My biggest problem in the past, apart from finance, has been a lack of a producer. I'm looking to change that now and am openly looking for one who wants to help make this film.

So, that short and then I've two other projects to get on with after that. As well as re-drafting Glencoe (thanks to those helping out by providing feedback for me) and working more on a project with a friend. Some actual income would be nice as well!!

I'm also thinking of changing the look of my blog. Any help out there?

Lots to do.