Favourite Scenes: Ed Harris, giving it beans…

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giphy (5)Never mind the Pollock (2000) – Ed Harris plays art-punk, Jackson Pollock with a power-house performance, directed by himself (he was briefly hospitalised during filming – clearly, from too many beans).

Thought of the Day: Love and Jean Moreau

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Jules et Jim (1962) – dir. Francois Truffaut

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MADAME MOREAU.

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xXx

And, because everyone’s eyes deserve a feast AND, because love deserves to last for more than a moment:

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Lift to the Scaffold (1958) – dir. Louis Malle

HAS CINEMA EVER LOOKED (OR SOUNDED) BETTER THAN THIS?

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posted by Dixie Turner

Screen tests for Rebel Without a Cause

Way before anyone had even heard of James Dean, Warner were toying around with the idea of making a film with the title Rebel Without a Cause. However, despite taking numerous shots at writing it out – and despite this 1947 Marlon Brando screen test – they never managed to come up with a satisfactory script – until Nicholas Ray took on the project in the mid 50s.

Here is a screen test from the Ray production in 1955 showing the chemistry between the principal actors (Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo) as they fool around in one of the scenes:

Meanwhile, Corey Allen who played Jim Stark’s rival, Buzz, seems reluctant to get out of his surly character in what is presumably a wardrobe test. Whilst Dean goofs about which each of the actors, Corey looks about as amused as the Queen at Christmas:

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posted by Dixie Turner

“I UNDERSTAND THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT ENCOUNTER IN LIFE IS THE ENCOUNTER WITH ONESELF.” – Yves Saint Laurent. Film of the Day: L’amour fou.

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Pierre Thorreton’s remarkable documentary on the life and love of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge, L’amour fou (2010), begins when Saint Laurent announced at a press conference on January 8th 2002 that he was retiring. He did so with the style and grace characteristic of one who had dominated the fashion world for nearly 50 years. He thanked Christian Dior; he thanked Coco Chanel. He credited Catherine Deneuve with being a lifelong muse. He spoke of his demons; the private battles of one both passionate and driven and shy and reclusive; he spoke with the humility seemingly characteristic of his nature.

“I’ve known fear and terrible solitude,” he said. “Tranquilizers and drugs, those phony friends. The prison of depression and hospitals. I’ve emerged from all this, dazzled but sober.”

Did he speak of Pierre Berge? Perhaps.

But the conference clip ends with a statement of dedication to selfhood; a statement which echoes through the film as you watch a life and love unfold; a statement which echoes through the viewer long after they have stopped watching. A statement, also, that perhaps seared the heart of Berge, but a statement whose truth, for all the love in the world, cannot be denied. Indeed, no love can truly flourish without it:

“I UNDERSTAND THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT ENCOUNTER IN LIFE IS THE ENCOUNTER WITH ONESELF.”

After decades of work, encouraged, managed and partly driven by Berge, the Socratic injunction ‘Take care of yourself’ was clearly not lost on Saint Laurent.

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Saint Laurent and Berge co-founded Yves Saint Laurent Couture House and became lovers in 1961. They separated amicably in 1976 but remained lifelong friends and business partners until, a few days before Saint Laurent’s death from cancer in 2008, the two were united in a Pacte civil de solidarite (same-sex civil union).

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In his eulogy to Saint Laurent, Berge reflected on their life together:

“I remember your first collection under your name and the tears at the end. Then the years passed. Oh, how they passed quickly. The divorce was inevitable but the love never stopped.”

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Pierre Berge on his relationship with Saint LAurent.

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by Dixie Turner

Film of the Day: Gimme Shelter (1970)

“WHO’S FIGHTING AND WHAT FOR?!!”

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DOCUMENTARY BY THE MAYSLES BROTHERS (GREY GARDENS) ON THE STONES’ 1969 US TOUR – MOST OF THE DRAMA FOCUSES ON THEIR DECISION TO GIVE A FREE GIG IN NORTH CALIFORNIA AND HOW THE HELL’S ANGELS CAME TO BE THE EVENT’S SECURITY GUARDS – AND HOW IT ALL WENT HORRIBLY WRONG… HYDE PARK, ANYONE?

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Mick Jagger: [watching Tina Turner performing the opening of the concert] It’s nice to have a chick occasionally.

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The Ike and Tina segment in the film is – if you know anything about their relationship – the most powerful, and hair-raising part. Tina sings ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ in a call-and-response with Ike, where he feeds her the words (“I can make you say anything I want you to say, make you do anything I want you to do..” etc) and she repeats them back to him – pop-history dynamite. Of course, there’s that other band, too – the Stones, is it?

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Hells Angel: They told me, if I could sit on the stage so nobody climbed over me, I could drink beer till the show was over.

ROCK ON!!

posted by Dixie Turner

Film of the Day: A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

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YES, JUNE, I’M BAILING OUT. I’M BAILING OUT BUT THERE’S A CATCH. I’VE GOT NO PARACHUTE.

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June: I could love a man like you, Peter.

Peter: I love you, June. You’re life and I’m leaving you.

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ONE IS STARVED FOR TECHNICOLOR UP THERE

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Powell and Pressburger’s classic WWII story of how love changes everything – even death.

Favourite Scenes: Sherlock Jr. Plays Pool

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Buster Keaton as the great would-be detective, Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Anyone looking for proof of Keaton’s comic genius need look no further than any one of a handful of scenes in Sherlock Jr., such as the famous tailing scene:

or the motorbike chase scene (check out the unbelievable timing of the broken bridge stunt where two trucks traveling in different directions perfectly coincide under the missing part of the bridge to provide safe passage for the runaway motorbike passing overhead – 2.17):

But there’s something about the pool-playing scene that brings an extra smile, partly because the timing is, as always, just so spectacular and partly because Keaton reverses the expectations that we have of slick pool tricks by potting every ball except the one he’s meant to.  Having unwittingly avoided both the falling axe and the poisoned water, Sherlock Jr is challenged by his foes to a game of pool in which one ball – 13 – is replaced with an exploding ball. As he pots one after another, each ball narrowly misses number 13 by only a hair’s breadth. The scene may be especially enjoyable in part because we’re so familiar with the image of the cool hustler and Buster Keaton, whilst certainly cool (and not just because of his stoney face), has also something of the weedy nerd about him. Of course, this is a classic comedy trick, well used by the likes of Chaplin – the humble hero with skills you’d never imagine, but it works and we laugh and are left both amused and amazed.

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Keaton, candid.

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**Newly added to our shelves.**

Favourite Scenes: Johnny Boy’s Entrance in Mean Streets (1973)

Written by Rob Munday

Take yourself back to a time when De Niro and Scorsese were fresh and dangerous in this classic moment from Mean Streets.
De Niro is Johnny Boy, no gangster but a Little Italy live-wire, a chancer with the mod-style later aped by the similarly swaggering Liam Gallagher.
Johnny Boy enters the bar… He’s joking about accompanied by two young ladies “from the village” – then things go up a gear. A concerned Charlie (Keitel) clocks him, the Stones kick in with Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Johnny Boy approaches in slow motion bathed in Michael Powell red from the bar lights.

“I was born on a crossfire hurricane”

Johnny’s in trouble but he doesn’t know it – he’s lost in his own world, excited by the prospect of things to come.

Favourite Scenes: Chaplin and Keaton in Limelight (1952)

When Charlie Chaplin finished directing Limelight he had no way of knowing it was to be his last film made on American shores. In fact, when he went across to England for the film’s British premier, he had no idea that the country that had been his home for so many years would refuse him re-entry, supposedly for his ‘communist’ sympathies. The film is a fitting farewell – Chaplin plays an ageing and alcoholic music-hall comic, Calvero, once famous for his character of the Tramp, but now almost forgotten and unable to find work. Chaplin plays Calvero as something of a humanist philosopher, infected by what he calls a ‘sad dignity’ which, as he explains, is clearly fatal for a comic; the desire, as one gets older, to ‘live deeply’; to feel the profound expanses of the heart and soul – into which small laughs drop with deafening echoes.

Into his care comes a young, troubled ballerina, Thereza (played by Claire Bloom – Look Back in Anger) intent on ending her own life, but Calvero raises her spirits, encouraging her with great conviction that she must fight for her happiness and, in turn, as she regains her strength and her position as a dancer, she attempts to return the favour by finding Calvero work. Towards the end of the film, a benefit concert is staged for Calvero who entertains the audience with the following piece of pure comic genius – the one truly hilarious scene in what is otherwise a fairly sober (and, at times, overly sentimental) film. Calvero’s partner in the scene is played by Buster Keaton who need hardly do anything at all to make you fall right off your chair with uncontrollable mirth:


Trivia: As Chaplin fell victim to the McCarthy era communist witch-hunts which swept through Hollywood, Limelight was hardly shown in America until the 1970s, when it – and Chaplin – finally got some of the recognition it deserved. Chaplin won an Oscar for the score which, as usual, he composed himself.

The assistant director on Limelight was Robert Aldrich, who went on to direct Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and the Dirty Dozen.

Happy Birthday, Marilyn, Piccola Sorellina; Colombella D’Oro

Marilyn Monroe – 1/6/26 – 5/8/62

This beautiful passage on Marilyn Monroe (see below), comes from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s political-poetic film essay, La Rabbia. The film is made up of documentary footage showing, predominantly, scenes of revolution, political protest, nuclear testing and liberation. The section on Marilyn comes about two-thirds of the way through as a breathtaking juxtaposition reflecting on the fragility of innocent beauty in the face of a violent world. For a film that centres on the political tribulations of the world’s underclass, the section on the Hollywood legend remains none-the-less tragic, offering all the romance and poignancy of a woman held in the eyes of the world – more alone than when she was unknown – who passed into mythology and symbolism. The film – which is unavailable on DVD – was made in 1963, one year after Marilyn’s death.

And after that, as a bit of a pick-me-up (!), here’s Marilyn singing Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (hum the song to yourself):

Marilyn and some of her (too few) birthdays:

Del mondo antico e del mondo futuro

era rimasta solo la bellezza, e tu,

povera sorellina minore,

quella che corre dietro i fratelli più grandi,

e ride e piange con loro, per imitarli,

tu sorellina più piccola,

quella bellezza l’avevi addosso umilmente,

e la tua anima di figlia di piccola gente,

non ha mai saputo di averla,

perché altrimenti non sarebbe stata bellezza.

Il mondo te l’ha insegnata,

cosi la tua bellezza divenne sua.

Del pauroso mondo antico e del pauroso mondo futuro

era rimasta sola la bellezza, e tu

te la sei portata dietro come un sorriso obbediente.

L’obbedienza richiede troppe lacrime inghiottite,

il darsi agli altri, troppi allegri sguardi

che chiedono la loro pietà! Così

ti sei portata via la tua bellezza.

Sparì come un pulviscolo d’oro.

Dello stupido mondo antico

e del feroce mondo futuro

era rimasta una bellezza che non si vergognava

di alludere ai piccoli seni di sorellina,

al piccolo ventre così facilmente nudo.

E per questo era bellezza, la stessa

che hanno le dolci ragazze del tuo mondo…

le figlie dei commercianti

vincitrici ai concorsi a Miami o a Londra.

Sparì come una colombella d’oro.

Il mondo te l’ha insegnata,

e cosi la tua bellezza non fu più bellezza.

Ma tu continuavi a essere bambina,

sciocca come l’antichità, crudele come il futuro,

e fra te e la tua bellezza posseduta dal Potere

si mise tutta la stupidità e la crudeltà del presente.

La portavi sempre dietro come un sorriso tra le lacrime,

impudica per passività, indecente per obbedienza.

Sparì come una bianca colomba d’oro.

La tua bellezza sopravvissuta dal mondo antico,

richiesta dal mondo futuro, posseduta

dal mondo presente, divenne un male mortale.

Ora i fratelli maggiori, finalmente, si voltano,

smettono per un momento i loro maledetti giochi,

escono dalla loro inesorabile distrazione,

e si chiedono: “E’ possibile che Marilyn,

la piccola Marilyn, ci abbia indicato la strada?”

Ora sei tu,

quella che non conta nulla, poverina, col suo sorriso,

sei la prima oltre le porte del mondo

abbandonato al suo destino di morte.

– Pasolini.

(The English translation for the above poem is in the clip from La Rabbia, the film from which it is taken).

posted by Dixie Turner