Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Robinson In Ruins

Begging for it

Lichen on a road sign

We've all been there

Opium in Oxfordshire

Everyday megaliths

Are you receiving me?

Everyone knows it's windy

A welcome sign for Pilgrims

No, idiots will do that 

Images from Patrick Keiller's 2010 film essay 'Robinson In Ruins'.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Dance of The Seven Veils

The last couple of posts have had a distinctly Teutonic feel and, of course, the big, bad news of the week is the death of Ken Russell, so I thought I'd combine both themes with a special presentation of Ken's 1970 Omnibus film 'Dance Of The Seven Veils'.

The programme is a film essay / comic strip satire about Richard Strauss, a great German composer who had the misfortune of living long enough to see the rise of Hitler. Strauss wasn't a Nazi, and was alternately feted and berated by the Fuhrer, but he sometimes allowed himself and his music to be used by the odious Goebbels as part of the Third Reich's propaganda regime. Post war analysis has revealed that he had his reasons (ensuring the safety of his Jewish daughter in law and his half-Jewish grandchildren) but his reputation was permanently besmirched by the association.

Dear old Ken tackled this ambiguity and the rest of Strauss' life in his usual sensitive, low key way, so offending Strauss' family that they immediately withdrew all music rights, limiting it to a single broadcast. It still languishes in the vaults today, waiting until 2019 when Strauss will have been dead for 70 years and the music can be restored.

Anyway, here we are. Beware, this is 'BBC archive' quality and VERY Ken Russell. RIP, Ken.

I love the initial polite but firm health warning announcement from the announcer and it got me thinking about the BBC then and now and what the equivalent show / announcement would be nowadays and came up with 'now on BBC1, Alan Yentob looks at the life and work of Jamie Cullum'.

Der Phantastisch Film (The Fantastic Film)

Opening titles from 1970s German sci-fi/horror film slot on channel ZDF, designed by the great Heinz Edelmann.

[Steer clear of the brown acid.]

German Ladykillers

Heinz Edelmann’s beautiful poster for the 1955 Ealing Studios film.

Monday, 28 November 2011

L'enfant Terrible R.I.P.

Ken Russell: a true Mounds & Circles hero. Born 3rd July, 1927; died 27th November, 2011.

Rest in peace, Ken.

I'm Not Feeling Myself Tonight

Sometimes a film can be summed up in one word. I’m not going to leave it at that, of course, but, for your reference, when it comes to ‘I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight’ the word is pathetic.

Barry Andrews gives a subtly nuanced performance.

It's amazing what you used to be able to get on the NHS.

Jon Pigeon (Barry Andrews from ‘Blood On Satan’s Claw’) is a hapless twat who works as a sweeper upper at the Hildebrand Institute of Sexual Research. The Institute is a chaotic place full of ugly old men chasing screaming naked women and people in white coats making notes as couples shag on a trolley in the lecture theatre. It’s all very scientific.


He feels a left tit.
 The director of this insane fuck factory is Mr. Nutbrown (James Booth from 'Zulu' and 'Twin Peaks' – giving an appalling performance for a professional actor who isn't Terence Stamp) who spends his time shouting, grabbing the girls, aggressively harassing his secretary and generally rubbing up against everybody like a dog in heat. His medical credentials are unclear, but his status as a first class arsehole is beyond doubt (at one point, Pigeon accidentally cups the breast of a naked woman in the gym. Nutbrown says to him ‘keep your hands off the office furniture, I only polished it this morning’ before spraying a can of Mr. Sheen over her nipple.

AGNES goes portable.
The Once-Over.
In his spare time, Pigeon is an inventor, and has scavenged enough electronic equipment to make a device he calls the Auto Genetic Notation for Experimentation with Sound (or AGNES for short), an audio transmitter which turns its listeners into lust crazed sex zombies. Pigeon’s main motivation seems to be to get into the pants of Nutbrown’s secretary Cheryl (Sally Faulkner from 'Prey') although, bizarrely, Cheryl likes him already and, with a little attention, would probably sleep with him voluntarily. In keeping with the slightly rape-y theme of the film, however, he’d rather use AGNES to trick her into shagging him and has several creepy attempts at plighting his troth with, as you might imagine, predictably unhilarious results.

Yes, it's little Mary Millington.
Ah, the sheer romance of it all.
Ostensibly a farce with a sexual theme, the whole production is so laboured and unfunny that it becomes the cinematic equivalent of a stand up dying on his arse in front of a capacity crowd at Wembley Arena: all that’s missing is a soundtrack of embarrassed coughs and nervous shuffling in seats as yet another shit old joke falls flat and the proverbial tumbleweed rolls across the viewer’s mind. Also, it’s unconscionably sexist, even for a smut film, i.e. the women have absolutely no motivation or desire of their own (not even that old standby nymphomania), they are simply there to be pawed and mauled and hypnotised into fucking everybody: furniture to be polished.

So, in summary, ‘I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight’: it's pathetic.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Lithe Girl, Brown Girl

Lithe girl, brown girl
Lithe girl, brown girl
Sun that makes apples, stiffens the wheat
Made your body a joy
Tongue like a red bird dancing on ivory
To stretch your arm
Sun grabs at your hair
Like water was falling
Tantalize the sun if you dare
It will leave shadows that match you
Lithe girl, brown girl
Nothing draws me towards you
The heat within you beats me home
Like the sun at high noon
Knowing these things

Perhaps through

Knowing these things

I seek you out

Listening for your voice

For the brush of your arms against wheat

For your step among poppies grown underwater

Lithe girl, brown girl

English poet, Christopher Logue CBE, is also an actor and screenwriter. Associated with Ken Russell, he wrote the script to Savage Messiah and appeared as Cardinal Richelieu in Ken’s catholic baiting 1971 film The Devils.
He was also a part of the old guard over at Private Eye magazine and edited the pretension pricking Pseuds Corner.

In London on the 29th of May 1959, Christopher recorded an EP with the Tony Kinsey Quintet called Red Bird: Jazz and Poetry. The poems were loosely based on Pablo Neruda’s “Veinte poemas de Amor” (Twenty Love Poems).

The EP is one of the most favoritest things I own. It’s joy to listen to from start to finish. Logue’s plumy diction gives a uniquely English feel to what - if it had been recorded in San Francisco at the same time, would no doubt’ve be hailed as a Beat masterpiece. 

I've uploaded it to You Tube so you too can love it too:

Here’s Charles Fox’s sleeve notes:

Europe has a long tradition of fitting poetry to music, a tradition which goes back to the choruses in Greek drama and embraces such elegant variants as the Provencal ballads. Even as late as the 17th century Herrick and Campion and Rochester wrote songs in the certain knowledge that these would, quite literally, be sung. But since then music has either gained the ascendancy over poetry (as witness the deterioration in operatic libretti between the 16th and 19th centuries) or else poetry has turned into a purely literary activity; if read aloud, then it has usually been in a gushing, over-romanticized fashion. Putting jazz and poetry together, therefore, is just one method of reasserting the old tradition.

All the items on this EP come from ‘Red Bird Dancing On Ivory’, originally broadcast in the BBC’s Third Programme during the spring of 1959, it’s music specially composed by Tony Kinsey and Bill Le Sage, the poems drawn from Christopher Logue’s ‘Songs’. Christopher Logue reads the poems in a cool, sinewy manner, his voice a companion to the trumpet and trombone, a part of the quintet’s front-line. Sometimes the words are cushioned by the music, moving to it’s rhythms; at other times they are deployed against it. Always there is interaction between the two. It is a relationship that allows the poetry and jazz each to enjoy a life of it’s own, while in juxtaposition they take on a fresh and exciting identity.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Friday Night Film: The Loved One

It's hard work being the dominant commercial force in an artform, you know. Hollywood might always have a great white fake smile plastered on its perfect features, but its history is a series of desperate fights to stay on top, whether it's against censorship, anti monopoly commissions, television, the internet, illegal downloads, etc, etc.

In the sixties, however, Hollywood were up against the counter culture - the youth explosion that made them seem irrelevant and out of touch and threatened one of their most lucrative demographics. To try and get back in the game, they did what Hollywood does best - they threw money at the problem. So, they hired hip directors (Tony Richardson), challenging writers (Terry Southern), covered odd and offbeat source material (Evelyn Waugh), got in stars who were prepared to get a Beatle cut and send themselves up (Roddy McDowall), and made multi million dollar flops('The Loved One').

Based on an already satirical novella by cantankerous genius Waugh, 'The Loved One' billed itself as 'the movie with something to offend everyone'. It's subject, loosely, is the American way of death - the funeral industry characterised by incredible, ingenious, tasteless casino / theme park LA cemeteries like Forest Lawn and its fictional equivalent, Whispering Glades.

The plot is too involved (and inconsequential) to get too hung up about, especially as the film is really a series of vignettes satirising Hollywood, agony aunts, science, big business, organised religion, advertising and other examples of everyday U.S pop culture needing a bit of a boot up the flabby arse. Ironically, in its scattershot approach to rather smugly satirising everything the film becomes an example of the sort of thing its seemingly against - expensive, garish, pushy, self-satisfied, crammed with stars and content, but with very little meaning. It's a fascinating ride, though, with some jaw dropping moments, most of which feature Rod Steiger, who takes his usual intensity to some very odd places indeed.

Aside from Steiger, the film has roles for John Gielgud, Roddy McDowall, Robert Morse, Robert Morley, Jonathan Winters (two roles, in fact), James Coburn, Paul Williams, Lionel Stander, Barbara Nicholls, Dana Andrews, Liberace and Anjanette Comer, a rather good actress whose 'interesting' love life apparently kept her from making it big. Happily, Hollywood has now removed the morality proviso from their star's contracts...

Here's an extract. It will horrify, then annoy, then disgust you. You have been warned.

History Went Wrong In 1588

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Late Night Lament

The rest of Kenny Burrell's classic 'Midnight Blue' LP is slightly more upbeat than this particular track, but the whole thing is perfect late night listening - smooth, undemonstrative, shot through with weary cool and melancholy. Pour yourself a drink and think about a lost love.


Sir Stanley's Syrups

'Perfect Friday' is a mediocre heist drama directed by theatical big shot Peter Hall. Peter never really got to grips with the cinematic medium, and his few films are generally pretty static and stodgy. He was, however, able to attract some interesting actors, and this misfire at least stars Sir Stanley Baker, David Warner, T.P McKenna and Swiss Miss Ursula Andress.

But what of Lord Baker's hairpiece? Well, it's fairly lightweight but quite comprehensive, not terribly convincing but, as you will see in the last picture, he's obviously able to work it to his advantage.

Great Acting Tip #1: be excellent at looking 


He's very good in this not very good film, which is approximately one tenth as clever and swinging as it thinks it is.