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.

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

EP Love Me Tender 1957.jpgEP Loving You 1957.jpgEP Jailhouse Rock 1957EP King Creole 1958.jpgEP GI Blues 1960.jpgEP Flaming Star 1960.jpgEP Wild in the Country 1961.jpgEP Blue Hawaii 1961.jpgEP Follow That Dream 1962.jpgEP Kid Galahad 1962.jpgEP Girls Girls Girls 1962.jpgEP It Happened at the Worlds Fair 1963.jpgEP Fun in Acapulco 1963.jpgEP Kissin Cousins 1964.jpgEP Viva Las Vegas 1964.jpgEP Roustabout poster.jpgEP Girl Happy 1965.jpgEP Tickle Me 1965.jpgEP Harum Scarum 1965.jpgEP Frankie and Johnny 1966.jpgEP Paradise Hawaiian Style 1966.jpgEP Spinout 1965.jpgEP Easy Come Easy Go 1967.jpgEP Double Trouble 1967.jpgEP Clambake 1967.jpgEP Speedway 1968.jpgEP Stay Away Joe 1968.jpgEP Live a Little Love a Little.jpgEP Charro 1969.jpgEP The Trouble With Girls 1969.jpgEP Change of Habit 1969.jpgEP That's the Way It Is 1970.jpgEP Elvis on Tour 1972.jpg

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.

 

Viva Las Vegas (1964)

Viva Las Vegas theatrical.jpg

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.

Inferno (2016)

Inferno_(2016_film).png

Humanity is the disease, inferno is the cure. The second sequel to The Da Vinci Code begins horribly. By which I mean it looks like one of those cheapo knockoffs you see on The Horror Channel in the wee small hours (and otherwise). A lecturer (Ben Foster) throws himself off a tower after being chased. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks, returning for the third entry in the series) wakes up in a hospital being tended by a doctor with an enormous overbite (Felicity Jones) – frightening in itself. She tells him he’s been shot while he has terrible hallucinations with blood pouring in torrents and people with faces back to front (you can see how that might happen given the company and a presumed brain injury). He’s lost his memory and has no idea how he’s wound up in Italy. Then some woman pretending to be police murders another doctor and the pair make away from the gunfire with some difficulty given he’s hooked up to IVs all over the shop. He’s been given a painting that depicts The Inferno but his copy contains elements that don’t belong in the original. And so we set off on a chase around the Uffizi and then we’re off to Istanbul and a rather interesting ending in a cave with shades of The Man Who Knew Too Much with some visits to the World Health Organisation in between. The visual palette is awful. It looks just like a brown below-par giallo. There is nothing to indicate that this is any good but its place in the Dan Brown symbology behemoth is typically humourless (despite the presence of the hilarious Paul Ritter) and unimaginative – let’s face it, we’re in Florence with a doctor called Sienna, which would indicate a left/right brain issue and not just Langdon’s. And so it goes. The lecturer though is revealed to be a billionaire keen to solve a global issue. We can all read the legal judgments on where Mr Brown got his stories:  I’ve read Lewis Perdue’s novels so I’ve a pretty good idea. However this is tampering with Dante. I know David Koepp is the rather gifted screenwriter entrusted with the book (and I must put my cards on the table and admit I’ve not read this one) and he’s not responsible for the choices of director Ron Howard (him again) or any aesthetic decisions. Hey – it’s an action thriller with Tom Hanks (paired again with Sidse Babett Knudsen after their desert romp …) and the world overpopulation problem. If you can find those old rose-tinted spectacles (literally) you might quite enjoy some of the incendiary scenes and a somewhat tantalising villain. And some running. Ho. Hum.

La Dolce Vita (1960)

La Dolce Vita poster.jpg

In the summer of 1958 several layers of Roman society collided in the flashing lightbulbs of celebrity, with Hollywood actors, aristocrats, drug dealers, designers, artists, writers, prostitutes, journalists and street photographers engaging in salacious conflicts that kept several scandal rags going with outrageous tales of a demimonde that seemed to congregate around the Via Veneto. Federico Fellini was taking note. A photograph of Anita Ekberg frolicking in the Trevi Fountain seemed to encapsulate the scene and a story took root in his brain. Along with Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi and some uncredited assistance from Pier Paolo Pasolin, he came up with the script that would define the time and the place like no other. Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) is the urbane gossip journalist who secretly hankers after the life of his intellectual friend Steiner (Alain Cuny, playing a character loosely based on Cesare Pavese) but cannot cease his lifestyle of instant gratification. The opening shot is stunning:  a helicopter is taking a statue of Christ across a football field surrounded by ancient ruins, and chased by another helicopter. All at once the image shows us Rome ancient, imperial and modern, and God is leaving the city, opening up a world of self-indulgence. Marcello is in the second chopper and dallies with some beauties sunbathing on a roof. Right there we have some very economical socio-cultural analysis about contemporary values.  38 minutes in, the film’s raison d’etre occurs:  Fellini re-stages the Ekberg image, starring Ekberg herself. Surely this is the ultimate post-modern shot in cinema. This is a very glamorous film about incredible people in a state of pure decadence. It was much criticised at local level but Fellini had tapped into fascism’s true expression – the cultivation of image above meaning, the use of culture to promote an antithetical belief system, the failure of humanity, mob rule. Popular culture was the vehicle through which fascism was transmitted. Fellini was working as a caricaturist during Mussolini’s alliance with the Nazis, he was involved with several of the neorealist classics made right after the war and he had already made a couple of classic films:  his concept of reality did not mean the subtraction of meaning. Christening the scattini (street photographers) Paparazzo was only the start of it. He understood the power of voyeurism. Marcello’s disenchantment as he pursues his personal satyricon is groundbreaking and inimitable. The role changed Mastroianni, as he admitted. You cannot walk through Rome and not see it as it is here – ironically, Fellini recreated most of it at Cinecitta (a Mussolini factory that lured so many American filmmakers to free up their frozen profits and enjoy the sweet life):  that’s how I discovered the real Via Veneto is very hilly.  Rome is Fellini, Fellini is Rome. And as for Nino Rota’s score! As Jonathan Jones said some years ago, Fellini thought of everything first. We are still catching up. Simply great.

Ekberg Trevi sml.jpg

Collateral (2004)

Collateral poster.jpg

Michael Mann took digital to a new level with this limpid portrait of nighttime LA in a story of taxi driver Max (Jamie Foxx) whose latest ride is hitman Vincent (Tom Cruise) carrying out a clutch of killings. His last mark is a prosecutor (Jada Pinkett Smith) whom the driver gave a ride and wants to save. Stylish, lean and beautifully written by Stuart Beattie, this is a perfect mesh of star performance and genre, heading for a climax almost out of Jean-Pierre Melville with two contrasting characters struggling with the fallout from their occupations. Made with care, this is a pretty perfect film.

LIFE (2015)

Life 2015 poster.jpg

Luke Davies’ screenplay centring on the circumstances behind the unforgettable LIFE photo essay about James Dean in an issue from March 1955 is uncertain about who the story’s protagonist is:   the most exciting actor most of us have ever seen, as incarnated by Dane DeHaan, or photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson)? Peculiarly it is Stock who comes across as pathological, unhappy and desperate whereas Dean seems a decent sort being screwed around by Jack Warner (Ben Kingsley) who knows he’s on to something great but wants to control this rebel from bad PR. Stock supposedly met Dean at a party at Nick Ray’s when he was casting Rebel Without a Cause and the distractions are looking at an actress who looks nothing like Natalie Wood and an epicene man who only bares a slight resemblance to Ray, along with the overriding story arc of Stock’s failed teenage marriage and his unwillingness to spend time with a very young son. Dean’s relationship with Pier Angeli is artfully used to construct the parameters of his Hollywood life;  while the trip the two men make back to Indiana before the premiere of East of Eden which commences in NYC’s Times Square is of course the setting for one of most people’s favourite poster, latterly called The Boulevard of Broken Dreams. The real story here is about the relationship between a photographer and his subject, whom he virtually stalked for the story, perhaps sensing something in Dean that Dean did not yet suspect was within himself. It’s nicely put together and shot, as you would expect from Anton Corbijn, a man who knows something about the craft behind creating iconic images – his rock career is probably the most notable of any photographer/video director of the last thirty years. But somehow even De Haan’s uncanny interpretation is not the favoured performance here and the ghastly Pattinson gets equal screen time in some sort of deluded payoff to the director’s former job. I don’t get it. How’d that happen?! There seems to be some kind of queer subtext that isn’t quite brought to the surface – despite the rumours about Dean, it’s Stock who appears to be unhealthily obsessive and projecting something that isn’t really there.  It makes you wonder about all those people who made money off their Jimmy stories when he was no longer around. Oh well, better to be talked about … than not. An opportunity mostly missed, sadly.

James Dean cattle.jpgJames Dean barber.jpgJames Dean Times Square.jpgJames Dean gravestone.jpg

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette 2006 poster.jpg

Sofia Coppola knows what it feels like for a girl. When the officials at Versailles gave her the very big keys to open up the palace and reimagine a little Austrian girl lost in the vicious and foreign French royal court working from Antonia Fraser’s biography, they probably didn’t picture this — a portrait of teenage decadence in the pastel palette of macaroons (magenta, citron, mint) scored to a New Romantic soundtrack as if she were making an Adam and the Ants video.  Kirsten Dunst is the kid sold to the gormless dauphin (Jason Schwartzman) in a strategic alliance organised by her mother the Empress (Marianne Faithfull). Her father in law the King Louis XV (Rip Torn) is like a Texan cowboy carrying on with Madame du Barry (Asia Argento). Her husband has no idea what to do in bed and she’s a giggly kid who spends her nights drinking and gambling with her girly friends and it takes a visit from her brother Emperor Josef (Danny Huston) to explain to the mechanically-minded prospective king about locks and holes, and a year later, finally, the marriage is consummated and a baby girl is born.  Seven years of foreplay!  The life of conspicuous consumption of colourful costumes and cookies and candy is swopped for something almost rural and natural at Le Petit Trianon where the young mother holds a different kind of court and succumbs to an affair with the Swedish Count Fersel (Jamie Dornan) and frolics with her little girl in the meadows. The mood alters and the cinematography (by Lance Acord) attains the backlit flared quality of a nature documentary:  this is impressionistic and expressionistic all at once, reliant on Dunst’s face and the overall vision of a writer/director in sympathetic tune with her tragic protagonist whose perception of the vicious society over which she holds sway dominates the narrative. The final quarter hour is the nightmare:  people are starving because the peasants are bearing the cost of the war in America, and propaganda and lies, dead children and the baying mob are at the door. This is a fabulist film about fashion and feeling and food and it gets into your head and your heart. If you don’t like it, you know what you can go eat.

Easter Parade (1948)

Easter Parade movie poster.jpg

When Broadway star Fred Astaire’s dance partner Ann Miller leaves him for a solo act he wagers he can make a star of the next girl he sees – who happens to be Judy Garland. This sheerly delightful Irving Berlin musical comedy is a wonderful backstage romance and even the performance of Kennedy pimp Peter Lawford warbling A Fella with an Umbrella can’t ruin a gloriously atmospheric colourful romp in turn of the century New York. Highlights include the showstopper Steppin’ Out With My Baby and The Girl on the Magazine Cover, plus the final title number. From a story by husband and wife team Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, who co-wrote the screenplay with Sidney Sheldon. Two accidents caused casting changes – Gene Kelly broke his ankle playing volleyball and suggested Astaire replace him, while Cyd Charisse’s broken leg meant Miller got her big break at MGM (as it were!). Gorgeous stuff as you’d expect from director Charles Walters. Easter blessings and chag Chanukah sameach.