Shuffle This!

Since too much is never enough, I’m putting up some (loosely) film-related music to complement my earlier contribution to #ShuffleTheMusic. Thanks to William at http://a1000mistakes.wordpress.com for getting me involved. Check out his seriously cool music blog!

 

  1. Les Diaboliques by Georges van Parys. I just love this, an awe-inspiring study in anticipated dread.

 

 

2. The French Connection theme by Don Ellis, one of my favourite jazz composer-performers. If you don’t know Turkish Bath prepare to be blasted into muso-freak heaven!

 

3. Sticking with a vaguely French theme, here’s one by one of my favourite European actresses, Elsa Martinelli, who carved out a parallel career in the Sixties with her cool chansons.

 

 

4. Since it’s the 50-year anniversary of the release of Bonnie and Clyde I can’t think of a better tribute than Serge Gainsbourg’s groovy homage with the swoonsome delivery of Bardot!

 

 

5. And talking about heartbreak in French how about the deeply moving theme from Les Parapluies de Cherbourg by my hero, Michel Legrand.

 

6. As I’m in a Sixties groove I’m including Henry Mancini’s theme for Charade, that Paris-set Hitchcockian murder mystery with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

 

 

 

7. Returning to Legrand, here’s the sublime theme from Summer of ’42. Sob!

 

8. Thinking of the recent demise of Glen Campbell, who co-starred in True Grit, I’m linking to Wichita Lineman, quite possibly my favourite ever song which is positively cinematic in its imagery.

 

 

9. Carlito’s Way is one of my favourite scores, composed by Patrick Doyle. Talk about tragic.

 

10.  And to conclude this afternoon’s witterings, here’s Dennis Wilson’s You Are So Beautiful  performed by Joe Cocker, which ends the same film.

The Sense of an Ending (2017)

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Literariness is embedded in the very loins of this, utilising as it does the title of theorist Frank Kermode’s famous 1967 volume. Julian Barnes is a determinedly literary writer but his 2011 novel isn’t just about verbal and written narrative, it’s also a story told in pictures, photographs which document the early life of retired camera shop proprietor Tony (Jim Broadbent), divorced from Margaret (Harriet Walter) and whose daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) is about to give birth to a child she is having on her own. He receives notice that he has been left a small sum of money and an item (which turns out to be a diary) by Sarah Ford, the mother (Emily Mortimer) of his first lover, the mysterious Veronica (Charlotte Rampling), and whom he only met once at their home 50 years earlier when the older woman flirted with him and Veronica’s brother made clear his attraction to him too. The diary is not forthcoming and Tony pursues it relentlessly when he finds out it belonged not to Sarah but to Adrian Finn (Joe Alwyn) his academically gifted classmate who cheated with Veronica. The unravelling of this mystery hinges on a horrible letter the young Tony (Billy Howle) wrote to Veronica (Freya Mavor) when they were all at Cambridge. What caused Adrian to commit suicide and what is the mature Veronica now withholding from him? He embarks on what his wife and daughter call the ‘stalking’ of his former girlfriend and the earlier story unspools in parallel. What this lacks in tension it makes up for in the carefully observed minutiae of performance and appearance, appropriately for a text that is all about the accumulation and capture of such information. It’s shot beautifully by Christopher Ross in an anti-nostalgic attempt to uncover a meaning to life in London’s leafy northern suburbs with tastefully restrained middle class homes:  a little ornamentation is always enough to hint at discernment if not understanding. When all the threads are gradually united there is a patina of sorrow, bringing together the book’s philosophical core interests in history and action. Adapted by Nick Payne and directed by Ritesh Batra.

Shuffle the Music!

I’ve been nominated by  William at a1000mistakes to create a playlist which is an idea that originated at  the turntable talk blog dude.

No idea how this is going to work but here goes – a random, off the top of my head list of 15 tracks of music to watch and listen to!

 

  1. Crazy Horses by The Osmonds because it’s the first song I remember!

 

2.  School’s Out by Alice Cooper which sums up everything I feel every summer despite all the years that have passed since I left it! Rad!

 

3. I Feel Love by Donna Summer. This still sounds like it comes from another planet.

 

4. Surrender by Cheap Trick. One of the great bands and I finally got to see them on their European tour in 2011. They were as thrilling as I always knew they’d be!

 

 

5. Can’t Stand Losin’ by The Police. How I loved them!

 

6. I Got You by Split Enz. Love this new wave stuff. As fresh as the day it was minted.

 

7. Quiet Life by Japan. David Sylvian. Top of the Pops on Thursday nights. Once upon a time this was everything …

 

 

8. Party Fears Two by The Associates. Probably my favourite song of the Eighties. Incredible.

 

 

9. Take Me With U by Prince is probably my favourite of all of his – and goodness knows there’s a lot to choose from.

 

10. Welcome to the Boomtown by David and David. A compelling song about a great city.

 

 

11. Never Tear Us Apart by INXS. Simply epic.

12. I’m Not Scared by Eighth Wonder/Pet Shop Boys with Patsy Kensit. Just discotastically perfect.

 

13. Freak Scene by Dinosaur Jr. was a transitional song into another era. Loved them live!

 

 

14. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. Because for me the music died … You know.

 

 

15. And because this is a movie diary I’ve got to put up a score … so it’s Georges Delerue’s theme for Jean Luc Godard’s Le Mepris/Contempt.

Thanks to William for nominating me. I hope the links work … The buck stops here! Goodnight from beneath a very starry sky in the northern hemisphere.

 

Elvis Aaron Presley 01/08/1935-08/16/1977

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It was forty years ago today that Elvis Presley died. His film career echoed his musical life – the early films were better and some approached classic status:  Jailhouse Rock is a great musical, while his very first performance, in Love Me Tender, was impressive, a reminder that James Dean was his hero. His own favourite film remained King Creole but there were so many afterwards, thanks to the influence of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Some are cult favourites, some are terrible, some are great for kids and thus endeared him to me at an impressionable age (It Happened at the World’s Fair, Paradise Hawaiian Style), while some were instrumental in bringing huge tourist numbers to Hawaii! The better ones like GI Blues have wonderful songs or a great romantic pairing like Ann-Margret in Viva Las Vegas. Two didn’t have musical numbers at all and he was able to flex his acting muscle – Flaming Star, Wild in the Country – and very good he was too. Just as his musical choices became more baroque, his movies became ropy and questionable albeit some are redeemed by their settings (Speedway) or their lunatic elements (Harum Scarum).  There was one very good late film, with Mary Tyler Moore, Change of Habit, but it’s a very long time since I’ve seen it and would love to reappraise it. His screen legacy has been inherited by the wonderful actress (Danielle) Riley Keough, his granddaughter. But there’s only one Elvis. The King is Dead. Long Live the King.

 

Less Than Zero (1987)

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Clay (Andrew McCarthy) is back in Los Angeles for Christmas following his first semester at college and finds that his ex-girlfriend Blair (Jami Gertz) is now using cocaine and his best friend Julian (Robert Downey Jr.) whom he found sleeping with Blair over Thanksgiving is a serious cokehead indebted to the tune of $50,000 to the nasty Rip (James Spader – frighteningly reasonable) who runs a rent boy ring and gets his creditors to service his clients. This portrait of life in the higher-earning echelons of LA is chilling. Bret Easton Ellis’ iconic novel is a talisman of the mid-late Eighties coming of age set and the icy precision of his affectless prose is inimitable. Once read, never forgotten. Harley Peyton’s screenplay is a fair adaptation but the casting lets this down – with the exception of Downey who is simply sensational as the tragic Julian, gifted with a record company for graduation by his father (Nicholas Pryor) and then simply dumped when he screws up.  This lovable loser’s mouth drools with the effects of his addiction when rehab doesn’t work and he spirals unhappily trying to bum money off his uncle to open a nightclub. Watch the scene when he talks to Clay’s little sister as though she’s a lover who’s pushing him away – knockout. The Beverly Hills scene with its horrible parents and their multiple marriages and awkward dinners with exes and stepchildren, making teenagers grow up too fast, is all too real.  While McCarthy and Gertz just don’t really work – McCarthy’s supposed to be a vaguely distanced observer but he doesn’t convey much beyond a bemused smile, Gertz looks confused and both look too old – the shooting style is cool and superficial, like the lives it critiques. Directed by Marek Kanievska.

Viva Las Vegas (1964)

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Aka Love in Las Vegas. The legendary pairing of The King with Ann-Margret is literally the whole show in a town full of them. Even for an Elvis film the storyline is surprisingly weak but the eye-poppingly colourful scene-setting by supreme stylist George Sidney mitigates the problem. Elvis  is Lucky Jackson, a talented singer and driver whose luck has run out so he’s in Vegas to raise money to take part in the Grand Prix. He sees dancer and swimming instructor Rusty (A-M) and is smitten. But so is his rival, Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova). Lucky and Rusty do some sightseeing around the Hoover Dam – nice helicopter views – and we learn a little about Nevada and her good relationship with her father (William Demarest).  Lucky winds up losing all his money in the hotel pool and having to earn his living as a waiter which leads to some nice slapstick serving Rusty and Elmo. Then his luck turns and there is the climactic race across the desert which is pretty well shot and there are some disasters along the route … The songs are terrific and the sequences of the city and casinos are wonderful. You can see Teri Garr in a bit part as a showgirl at one point but the most surprising element is that this was written by Sally Benson, responsible for Meet Me in St Louis. And then there’s the real-life romance between Elvis and Ann-Margret! In the film they marry at the Little Church of the West, the oldest wedding chapel in Vegas.

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

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What have I done? Adapted loosely from Battle for the Planet of the Apes, this continues the saga in a reboot that, for this viewer at least, worked brilliantly in the first episode and not at all in the second (horrible cast, horribly shot). Matt Reeves however is back to direct this and it’s fierce, chilling and captivating, in every sense. Caesar (Andy Serkis) now has a psychological battle (against Koba) and an actual war against an American military whose renegade paramilitary California outfit (the Alpha and the Omega) run by the ruthless colonel Woody Harrelson imprisons apes in a quarantine facility aka work camp where parent apes are separated from their children.  Torture is random and regular while a collaborator ape, Donkey, brutalises his fellows. The allusions to the Aryan Brotherhood and Nazis are inevitable not to mention the theory of eugenics which originated in that great state. Caesar’s personal motive  is now revenge after his wife and younger son, Cornelius, are murdered in raids. He takes off with his own small band of brothers – orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) and Rocket (Terry Notary) – and they rescue a little human girl whom they christen Nova (Amiah Miller) who has been rendered mute but is quite the brain. Then they find a seemingly witless addition to their group (Steve Zahn) who repeats the mantra ‘bad ape, bad ape’ but turns out to be quite the strategist. He’s been in hiding since the killer simian flu outbreak. This is quite a bleak but utterly compelling fast-moving narrative with one big scene (a tad too on the nose?) between Caesar and Harrelson in which the prototypical neo-Nazi lays out his reasoning (fighting a holy war for the future of mankind) and explains how he killed his little boy rather than have him disabled by this strange illness causing the loss of speech. Harrelson looks like he did in Natural Born Killers which is probably a reference too far. The crucifying of Caesar (and others) has clear Biblical allusions (water, desert, one rebel and his few followers) and the suffering can be tough to watch. But the action is at a cracking pace. This aspires to mythical qualities and has them in abundance. You might find there is resonance with the current political situation – in many territories – or that might also be a reference too far. Whatever. There is a great but deathly dangerous escape and a tragic sacrifice. You either roll with this or you don’t. I do! Written by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves, adapting from Pierre Boulle’s source novel which started the whole thang.

Happy 80th Birthday Dustin Hoffman August 8th 2017!

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Such a surprising star – and such a lucky break for the audience that he broke through in the late 60s with The Graduate:  the perfect choice for the perfect film. I got such a surprise when I found out he was an LA native. He seemed pure NYC.  As the Seventies progressed it looked like he got even better with every new film,  with some extraordinary performances in magically good movies. Look at them! Midnight CowboyLittle Big Man. Papillon. All the President’s Men…  What a run! He got a bit of a telling off from Laurence Olivier on Marathon Man (“why don’t you try acting, dear boy?”) but starred in that Ur-film of abject masculine paragons, Kramer Vs. Kramer, getting the Oscar. He started directing Straight Time but left it to Ulu Grosbard and wouldn’t return to that role until Quartet in 2012.  The Eighties were straightforward star vehicles albeit with some Oscar bids in Tootsie as the cross-dressing actor and the lovable numbers-obsessed autistic brother in Rain Man.  In between more conventional parts in the 90s were the comic and satiric – wasn’t Wag the Dog pretty great?! Especially his take on Robert Evans! As the roles became less important and more supporting characters he took to kids’ films and quirky family comedy but made time for auteur directors like Tom Tykwer (Perfume) and most recently Noah Baumbach (The Meyerowitz Stories). His heyday may be in the rearview mirror but he is constantly surprising us as he always has. What a guy! Happy birthday Mr Hoffman. Please don’t stop acting!

Sunset (1988)

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Blake Edwards’ adaptation of Rod Amateau’s unpublished manuscript about the friendship between movie cowboy Tom Mix (Bruce Willis) and real life Wyatt Earp (James Garner) had the potential to be something quite brilliant:  it doesn’t carry it off due to inconsistencies of tone (never quite slapstick, never quite thriller) and performance (Willis didn’t heed his director to take his role seriously) but it retains its interest. Hollywood’s well-preserved 1920s villas provide a magnificent backdrop to a story set in 1929 just when the industry was getting to grips with the transition to sound. Earp in real life had moved to Los Angeles in 1910 but here he’s newly arrived and hired on a silent movie set to advise Mix and they get embroiled in a murder at the Kit Kat Club, a high class brothel where the whores are movie star lookalikes (shades of LA Confidential) run by the cross-dressing Cheryl (Mariel Hemingway.) Earp tries to help his old girlfriend Christina (Patricia Hodge) who happens to be married to studio boss Alfie Alperin (Malcolm McDowell), a thinly disguised version of Chaplin, and her son, who is in constant trouble and goes missing. The mystery at the story’s heart involves police corruption with those reliable villains M. Emmet Walsh and Richard Bradford and Warhol stud Joe Dallasandro showing up as a gangster. There’s a scene at that year’s Academy Awards (not anatomically correct, but still fun) and lots of really interesting performances in the wings including John Fountain playing his grandfather, the legendary John Gilbert. Willis’ unpreparedness made for a difficult time and Garner (a gentleman) commented on it, a rare instance of his speaking out against a colleague and his own performance really saves the film. Garner had of course worked with Edwards before – on Victor/Victoria. His interpretation of Earp is markedly lighter than his earlier one in Hour of the Gun.  There’s a cute running joke about his inability to drive a car – he does it a lot and in real life Garner was an accomplished racer and stunt driver particularly on The Rockford Files. In a neat nod to that, Dermot Mulroney makes his debut – he would play (my beloved!) Rockford in a TVM reboot. The other pluses are the LA locations used including the Ambassador Hotel, the Roosevelt Hotel, Melody Ranch, Bell Ranch and Orange Empire Railway Museum. Not great Edwards but worth a watch for the idea and Garner, with the usually reliable score from Henry Mancini as well as delectable photography by Anthony B. Richmond. A missed opportunity to make a satisfying Hollywood murder mystery but heck with all that talent I’ll take this anyhow.