Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Boy, his Dog and their issues.

Tonight,I shall mostly be talking about: A Boy & his Dog.

I think that I saw the first half of this fillum a million years ago and didn’t bother watching it to the end. I decided to remedy this t’other night and what shall I say of ‘A Boy & his Dog( or a ‘dog and his boy’ as RTE listed it at the time )?.

Well it’s pretty special.


It's like this: one of the first ever full-length feature fillums is D.W.Griffith’s masterpiece ‘Birth of a Nation’. This silent fillum with its properly-edited story arc and marvellously competent crowd scenes heralded the very beginnings of the motion-picture medium and is one like-as-what-you’re-supposed-to-watch if you want to understand anything about the History Of Cinema.

The only problem with ‘Birth of a Nation’ is that it’s basically a love-letter to the Klu Klux Klan: depicting them as white knights who can be relied upon to swoop in and save the white women from the apish negro whose sole ambition seems to be to plough the white woman’s furrow.

In other words, it’s objectionable. It remains important, and historically significant, but it’s also fricken’ horrible and leaves a bad taste in the modern racially enlightened palate. We can watch it and appreciate it, but it would take the saddest most criminally underdeveloped mind to actually agree with its message.

Similarly maligned and praised is Leni Reifenstal’s documentary of the Nurembourg Rally: ‘Triumph of Will’ which looks great but makes the Nazi party look like the most wonderful set of chaps that a country could hope to be run by.

Although I reckon it can be argued that while ‘Triumph of Will’ does champion the cause of Hitler’s Nazi party, in context this is inevitable: after all it’s a well-made documentary about an event staged to champion the cause of Hitler’s Nazi party. What was she supposed to portray?- That it depicts the rallies, torchlight processions and immense set-pieces of synchronised movement as impressive sights is hardly surprising, they no doubt were impressive sights.

I personally have a soft spot for this fillum because of the the amount of times ‘God’ is referenced in the speeches. It is often presumed that the Nazi party was atheistic, and perhaps at its core, it was ( they could’ve been all secret Mormons for all I know) but ‘Triumph of Will’ shows very clearly a Nazi party that sold themselves to their supporters as disciples on a mission from the almighty. 'Watch out for politicians who claim to act on God's behalf' is a maxim that can't be illustrated enough.

Anyhoo, I’m waffling I know, my point is this: I’m glad that I live in an era where we can see through Nazi party propaganda and melodramatic myths about the Klan and appreciate them anyway for what they are besides, and I reckon that ‘A Boy and his Dog’ belongs in the same category as them two.

By that, I mean that the attitude to women in this fillum is a bit sick. A bit sick and a bit sad, frankly, and I can’t say anything else about the A Boy & his Dog without getting that out of the way for starters.

I’ve crapped on before about my basic mistrust of the notion of a ‘male feminist’ but honestly ‘A Boy and his Dog’ takes the (dog) biscuit: somebody has issues. I’m not sure if it’s Harlon Ellison because I never read the original story, maybe it’s him, maybe the director(L.Q.Jones), maybe both, but one thing I do know is somebody involved in this thing really had it in for the ladies.

That’s a pity because there is a lot of stuff to like in this: The first vision of the ‘Mad Max’ post-apocalyptic/western type genre, Don Johnson ( playing ‘Vic’) way better than he ever was in his TV stuff: the dog (called ‘Blood’ but played by a mongrel called ‘Tiger’) who is the fucking Marlon Brando of canine actors, and a twist ending that is unlikely to be repeated in any other film, ever.

It’s a ‘funny’ film , it’s really quite campy and clumsy and strange and off-the-wall and it’s a surprisingly inventive and clear parable. It’s kind of like Starwars in reverse: Vic is a kind of Anti-Luke Skywalkerish figure, led away from a life of adventure ( with his wise old Jedi-master dog ) by a Princess (of sorts) to a green underground Tattooine and a life of rural mundanity, where she seeks his help in the Rebellion and he doesn’t want to give it. The Starwars thing maybe stretching it, but what I'm trying to say is that I did find it interesting:
There is stuff to ponder in it, but unfortunately this fillum ends up being about nothing but what an unmitigated wagon ‘yer wan’ in particular is, and how crap women are in general.

If you’re a confused and emotionally retarded teenage boy and your bird just ran off with a rugby jock and your equally confused and emotionally retarded best mate who-never-trusted-that-bitch-anyway calls round to commiserate with a big of weed, then this is definitely the fillum for you lads and I recommend it wholeheartedy.

Otherwise, watch ‘A Boy and his Dog’ with your ‘Triumph of Will’/ ‘Birth of a Nation’ glasses on.

On the Shorts

I went to a showing of locally-made short fillums in the Loft venue in the end of May, and although I was mightily impressed, I didn't bring a notepad to record my reactions... it's a while ago now and my memory has become hazy, however — as luck would have it, I caught up recently with Peadar Clancy who was MC of the evening and starred in two of the fillums, and asked him for a quick reminder of the nights events. This is what he was kind enough to tell me, and like the absolute git that I am— I've added me own tuppence-worth in heavy black-type a la 'Smash Hits' 1987.

Anyway, here's a rare photo:

And here's Peadar in his black cloak and barrister's wig to tell you all about it...

M'lud, on the night in question six shorts sizzled in Limerick's sauciest pan:

House with a Bay View

Steven Boland of LIT was the director and driving force behind this. I helped a little with dialogue and was the main character, the effete landlord who did not know he would be so effete until he had shaved down the centre of his chin and made a hasty cravat out of an old handkerchief.
This was breezy and fun and Peadar was a lot more creepy than effete for my money.

Milk Market Documentary

Another LIT student, Pete Moloney filmed this movie. Great to have the locale portrayed in a bustling sort of way. This was a nice straightforward mini-doc on the subject of the Milk Market. Because it has changed so much recently, I felt this piece had a lovely 'reeling in the years' vibe about it.

The Sound Machine TRAILER

Conceived and executed by Bill Barham, his first foray into film technology and the like. James Skerritt director of photography on that one. (James, Pete and Steve all come from the same class in LIT and we are all pals.) I remember thinking that this was the tightest so far at this stage of the evening, & made with a real sense of fun.


To my mind, this was the resisting piece as the French should say, Limerick Senior College class project headed up by Niamh MacNamarra of Speakeasy Jazz fame. Really atmospheric. ' Really?? 'Atmospheric' eh? Is that what you call it? seriously folk, this short fillum wouldn't be everyone's mug of Bovril, and one young person actually left when it got too 'heavy' for them but I thought that it was wonderful really, made entirely out of awesomeballs: absolute class, and would have given it the 'Golden Scrote' for awesomeballisity if such an award [ or indeed adjective ] existed. It was so cynical and depressing and devoid of hope that it put me in a good mood for a week. Seriously volk, I found it quite compelling.

The Real Thing

This came to us by way of Emma Lee Teck, a local lass who went of to Goldsmith College of Fine Art in London and has made several films. She was the director on this one. Highly polished. Of all the fillums,this was perhaps the most like a 'real' film and you could tell that a lot of expertise and time had gone into making it. The audience fell around laughing and I felt that it was a nice palatte-cleanser after bleak oul' Alfred.


This was a bit rough around the edges, I wrote this with my friend James (Skerritt) who called me up with the idea of a film starting with a guy getting caught rubbing one out* in the beginning and caught again in a very compromising situation of some nature in the end. Looking at it now, I am not thrilled with it, but learned an awful lot from the process and one or two moments came off very well. A bit of a mad one alright this, but I thought it was way better than Paedar's is making it out to be here.
Out of all this has sprung The Limerick Film Collective, and we will do more of the same soon(ish).

Thanks for the interest.

Take 'er easy.


Cheers Peadar do come again...

* ' rubbing one out ' is, I have decided after some thought, a 'Peadarism' for wanking.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


How are you supposed to say that?

"Se-Seven-en?", or do I just say "Seven" and pretend to have read it that way, ( the way one sometimes does).

I don't like what happened with the title of this: it reminds me of T-shirts that 'swear-without-swearing': they're not very clever or funny and the per5on we4ring the T-5h1rt L00ks L1ke 4 b1t 0F 4N 455-WH1PE,
and a 'V' doesn't look like a '7' : it's pointing in the wrong direction by about a hundred degrees or so,— it's like replacing a 'Z' with an 'N' , or an 'M' with the letter '3'.

I don't like it.

I first saw this a million years ago 'in the cinna-mar' and I remember that I didn't think much of it at the time. I don't believe I noticed the spelling of the title then, or perhaps I did and paid no mind, ( I was less curmudgeonly then you see,).

I saw it again recently and despite the great plot, the great acting, the great tension and the great set-design, I didn't like it. Not a bit, and it's hard to explain what I found so unsatisfying.

Well there's at least one thing, that I don't suppose is anyone's fault, but it ruins a modern viewing of the fillum: and that's that I recognise Kevin Spacey's voice immediately. —It's just a familiarity thing, I've seen ( or rather heard ) so much of him since this came out, he talks a lot in The Usual Suspects and quite a lot indeed in American Beauty and I know what he sounds like, a mile away.

The other thing I hate about it is the excellent set-design. What's to hate about something being excellent? Well as Peter Griffin said of The Godfather...

"It just insists upon itself".

This film is so very carefully and absolutely 'Noir' that it undermines what the actors and the plot are trying to do, i.e. get us to care about the characters. The careful colour-palette for each shot, the artificial attempt to portray the setting in a 'nameless' city, in a 'dateless' era, the trenchcoats and trilbys... I felt that the depiction of what we should feel are actual 'real' people in 'real' danger was shouted down at every turn by 'Style','Style','Style' : so much style that nothing looks real and I don't care about anybody.

So 'Se7en': well-acted, well-written, great music, great story but the look of it lets it down, for me.

Like the title, it just seemed a tad o7er-contri7ed.

Big Man Tait: the beginning of the end.

The story started here.

It all had to go wrong of course. Nobody knows why Elvis threw it all away, nobody knows what Ruby had to hide, nobody knows why some of us get broken hearts and nobody knows what the blinking feck the Mayor of Limerick: draper turned shirt-pedlar, turned industrialist, turned Knight of the Realm thought he was at, by standing for a seat in parliament: someone must have talked him into it.

At least that’s the way I see it, imagination leaps in to fill the gaps that history creates when there’s part of the story that don’t make sense, and I don’t see why you shouldn’t be privy to my imaginings, but for the moment, I’d better get back to the facts.

The facts are as follows: Peter Tait, at the height of his success and popularity, stood for a seat in Westminster and by doing so went from his exalted status as the city’s Golden Boy to something more akin to a social pariah in a very short space of time.

The real kicker was the party that he stood for because the celebrated rags-to-riches man-of-the-people Peter Tait was the only the bleedin’ Tory candidate. At a time in Ireland when the Tories opposition to Home Rule wasn't exactly flavour of the month round these parts.

It may have been simple political naïveté that made him throw in his lot with the Conservative Party, or he may have been manipulated by those who sought to take advantage of his popularity among the common folk.

My imagination conjures up an Iago-like figure, a jealous schemer from the upper-classes who utterly despises this self-made man and resents both his wealth and his popularity with a deep and passionate hatred, that’s who I imagine talking Tait into it.

This island boy from Shetland ( who’s had to work all his life and then finds himself suddenly surrounded by a bunch of people who would have shared their view of the world with Jane Austen, i.e. 'looked down' on anyone who didn't get their money via inheritence ) would be lost in his new social world and easily manipulated by my imagined Iago. I’ve nobody in particular in mind for the role but I bet my Iago was there in some form or another, watching and hating.

Tait would definitely have been unpopular with a section of the snobs simply because of what he represented: smarts and industry over entitlement and privilege. Human nature being what it is, somebody would’ve wanted to see him fall from grace, and what better way to do it than by convincing him to do the one thing that the people of Limerick would never forgive him for.

Okay back to the facts then, Tait ran against the Liberal/Home Rule party in one of the dirtiest-fought elections that the city had ever seen. The Tories lost and called for an inquiry. That inquiry discovered bribery and intimidation by the Liberals and their supporters on a grand scale but upheld the election result because the Conservatives were demonstrated to have used equally unsavoury methods.

Tragically, a man was even killed in the faction-fighting in Tait’s square [which is now Baker Place] under the shadow of the clock that the city had awarded Peter Tait, a man who was no longer the city’s darling. Aware of the resentment, he resigned as Lord Mayor and increasingly began to turn his back on the City and gaze a covetous eye on a seat in Westminster...

And that was to be the ruination of the man.

Final instalment coming, er... soonish.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The labour of Lebowski.

Avid and obsessional followers of this blog, ( mythical creatures I know but so are Unicorns, —and you can still talk about Unicorns even if they don't exist) will remember my mentioning the 'Two Gentlemen of Lebowski' mash-up/play by Adam Bertolloci back in April.

Well it had to happen, and it did. Oh yes, and better still it happened in Limerick Citaye. A reading* of the aforementioned dramatic work, and oh it was educational too folks!
I expected hoardes, considering the popularity of the The Dude and The Bard, and got instead a respectably fullish Loft. I hope that they enjoyed themselves, and weren't too confused. I had made the perverse decision to dispense with the spoken stage directions and instead have locations and action delineated with live sound effects.
* Yes,I hate readings, because the mother-fuckin' play's the thing,— but the Coen Bros have pot the Kibosh on performances so a reading is what we did, what with a half a loaf being better than no bread.

This was an approach fraught with danger and more likely to 'confuse and not explain' than it was to 'amuse and entertain', but we had Ger O'Leary on sound effects and I think that we carried it off. I felt very good indeed when I heard that at least one audience member had never seen the the fillum and enjoyed and understood the performance nevertheless: that's what you want.

In putting it together, I will say that I was at an enormous advantage, having taken part in previous readings with the Bot-Dogs. The normal set-up is a ten o'clock meet up for everyone, rehearse through the whole Sunday and put it on at half seven or eight in the evening; it sounds like plenty of time, considering that the actors are going to be just reading anyway, but having been through it a few times I can tell you that it's very little time indeed; realising that, in advance, was highly advantageous.

I was also at an advantage in the quality of thespians that we managed to inveigle into turning up and acting [free gratis and for diddly-squat]. The combination of cool smart people and advance planning meant that we got to do pretty much everything that my over-enthusiastically fevered brain had come up with, which was a small miracle in and of itself.

If I never get anybody, to do anything that I ask them to, ever again, I cannot complain, because this Sunday in the Loft, I had a set of talented trojans on my side, and we did 'Two Gentleman of Lebowski', in a fashion that I reckon, was to the absolute best of our resources and capabilities.

Oh, what a wonderful feeling.

Review of the show on 'Magic Bulletin '

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Big Man Tait part 3

Sorry about the delay, so right where was I?

Tait. Yes. If y'don't know what I'm on about then go here, otherwise, read on!

Tait supplied thousands upon thousands of uniforms to the Confederate army, only eleven of which survive to this day; that's why a button made around the corner from me in Edward St ( like the one pictured above) is worth between 600/900 dollars.

He had by this stage moved his production from Bedford Row to Edward St.

Life being Life, I was just looking for a Limerick map [for an idea that I had for the poster design of 'Love, Peace & Robbery'] and I came across this rather natty bit of cartography featuring Limerick the year that they made Peter Tait the Mayor and even showing the location of his clothing factory, and you'll never guess who drew it:

Recognise that name? That's right, William E Corbett drew this map in 1865, and Willam E Corbett was also the architect who designed 'Tait's Clock'.

'Tait's Clock' is where my whole investigative journey began.

I've a friend who lives in an apartment over-looking it, and I was a little saddened to see that not only had the difficult and expensive repairs to the stonework been vandalised but some absolute tool had spray-painted it with the word 'Dork'.

That's what set me to thinking about the man and I think you'll agree, it's a helluva story.

In context,in 1846/7 while Francis Spaight, a ( Limerick merchant, farmer, British magistrate and ship owner), was shipping food out of Limerick under armed guard ( because we had a wee bit of a famine going on, and the poor,- despite being penniless, felt entitled to some of the food that the country was producing ) Peter Tait was a twenty-eight year old man trying to sell shirts from a basket on that same quayside.

Less than 20 years later, the same sacked apprentice/ street pedlar was not only the richest man in town but also Mayor, and such a popular mayor that they built a monument to his achievement.
Peter Tait may have only ended up in Limerick because he ran out of money on the way to America, but who could deny he lived the 'American' dream?

I suppose it's hard to even appreciate the unlikelihood of this one man's meteoric rise in such a battered, bereft and god-forsaken country as Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century. The circumstances of his origin could hardly have been humbler, to lose his 'live-in' job at the drapers must have been both devastating and terrifying; selling shirts from a basket was not something he did for only a short time either, he was already in his late 20's ( a middle-aged man for the time ) before he got to open his first small production centre in Bedford Row.

Yet here he was, less than 20 years later, the same street-pedlar, turned industrialist, turned millionaire, turned blockade-runner standing in Baker Place, and just about to be knighted as a magnificent clock ( made from stone quarried in garryowen ) was dedicated to him by the people of his adopted city.

That must have felt kinda cool.

Of course, it all went arse-ways mind you...

continued here

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Big man Tait part 2

Tait's contract was to provide shirts for the British Army during the Crimean War.He supplied shirts to the ~C' Troop of the 8th Royal Irish Hussars. These shirts, and the Hussars themselves were unfortunately cut to ribbons the following year in the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, when they were led to their certain Death by a man from Castleconnell, Viscount Fitzgibbon . The shirts were completely ruined by that particular escapade.

Tait didn't do to badly out of the Crimean war, he went from just shirts to supplying full uniforms, made a wad load of cash and got himself a gaff in the poshest part of Limerick ('South hill'). As is befitting man in possession of a fortune, Peter took a wife, 'Rose Abraham' whose family lived in Fort Prospect in Janesboro. They got married in Bedford Row in the church that later became a cinema that's now an unoccupied boutiquey shop unit, but you can see the church facade inside the glass.
Outside their new gaff (now Southhill House) from ribbons of silk he hung the basket, that he used sell shirts out of, as a memento poverti, and thought about how to stay rich.

With the Crimean War over, Tait needed some new contracts and he got them by supplying the Canadian army and the Confederates in the American Civil War. To make sure his uniforms got there (and that the cotton that the South paid him with got back ) he commissioned three ships:'The Kelpie', 'The Evelyn' and 'The Elvie' to run the blockades in a Rhett Butler stylee.

Bit of a risk to be sending three steamships all the way from Limerick into the middle of a war on the other side of the Atlantic; Rose must have been concerned but frankly, Rose, Tait didn't give a damn for running the blockade is exactly what the Taitmeister decided he'd do.

When those ships came back full of cotton, Limerick went wild. Everybody agreed that Tait was some man for one man and there was nothing for it but to make him the Mayor of the place.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Big Man Tait

Baker Place has a clock. You can't miss it. There was a refurbishment of Baker Place a few years ago, when they paved the area and put little lights in the ground and put in some benches and cleaned up the clock. It's popular with the baby goths of a Saturday. I don't think it chimes anymore,[ I was wrong, it chimes!-it chimes!] but it tells the time. It's called 'Tait's Clock' .

But who was 'Tait'? —that doesn't sound like a Limerick name, and why does he have a clock for himself, standing there in the middle of everything?

Well I'll tell you. 'Taito' was a Caledonian chap born far away on the Shetland Islands in 1818. It's likely that he intended to emigrate to America but only got as far as Limerick before he found himself in need of a job sharpish. Fortunately for him, Scots were favoured in the drapery trade and he was a Scot, and even more fortunately, the firm of Cumine and Mitchell in Georges St (now O'Connell St.) was run by Scots.

So there he was, a lucky young man indeed in 19th Century Limerick, with a position in a drapers shop no less. Which meant he slept and lived in the shop, and spent the majority of his life there as more or less a slave. That was the way for folk like-as-what-had-nothing back in the day and most people would've said he was lucky to be there.

That 'luck' didn't last and when business dropped off he was given his marching orders. He offered to work for no wages if he could just have grub and somewhere to kip but the answer was no.

Not a good time for the Taitster. With the small bit of cash that he had, he got himself a basket and some shirts. Sailors off the boats at Arthur's Quay, he reasoned, would have money in their pockets and be in need of a new shirt, so he hung around the quays hawkin' shirts out of a basket.

Apparantly, this turned out to be a good earner and after a while he was able to purchase a new-fangled Singer sewing machine and to pay a woman to make shirts.
Not until he was 32, did he have the wherewithal to rent rooms in Bedford row and employ a number of women but in 1850 this is exactly what he did. Three years later, he advertised positions for 500 workers.

What had happened was that our man Tait had got an army contract. The British War Office had been petitioned by the Lord Lieutenant for the job, and Tait could do it way chaper than anyone else in her majestie's Empire. How? Simple, long before Mr Ford supplied cars in any colour so long as it's black, Peter Tait invented the production line system.

There you have it.

Throughout history, all garments had been individually made, with the same seamstress/tailor making-up the garment completely. This took a lot of time. Tait's system was to revolutionise clothing manufacture - indeed all kinds of manufacture - by having each of a number of workers completing one simple operation. So by the time the shirt reached the last worker, it only required the finishing touches.
The 'production line' was invented here, in Limerick Citaye!

More Tait-related stories of facination and wonder [and I'll explain about the clock ]tomorrow.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Touch of Evil

Orson Welles's last American fillum, (a B-movie that bombed,) was a touch of Evil.

The original cut was destroyed and the we know that the studio-released version differed quite a bit indeed from what Orson intended, as there was additional scenes shot and some of the main scenes completely re-done. The 1998 version is an attempt at getting it to something like Welles's original vision.

When you think of how Orson Welles began in Hollywood, as the rebellious young turk with a really great contract, who starts his 'Big-Movie-Career' with Citizen Kane, it seems especially tragic that a Touch of Evil is his Hollywood swan-song.

Not that it's a completely awful fillum: it's not, but it's hailed nowadays as a 'Classic Noir', and good as it is, I don't reckon it's that good and it in no way compares to the promise shown by something like 'Kane'.

The blame for all of this might well lie with the studio and the seemingly vindictive hatchet-job that they made of the fillum, I don't know.

I do know, that for me, the fillum that I just saw didn't work.

Why didn't it work? Well...
you might think Charlton Heston playing a Mexican ( Exactly as Charlton Heston, only darker and with a moustache ) is something that nobody could take seriously, I mean ,it sounds a bit silly.
You might think that that was why it didn't work,— but that element actually seemed to operate fine.

You might think it didn't work because for all it's determination to show us the 'sleazy' side of life, it's depiction and description of the 'drug-using underground' was laughably ill-informed ( it's inferred several times that they inject themselves and others with marijuana).

You might think it didn't work because the heroine-in-peril is Janet Leigh from 'Psycho', trapped in a motel, in the middle of nowhere, run by a weirdo who seems to have the hots for her ( in fairness 'Psycho' was made after 'a touch of Evil', but there's no getting it out of my head at this stage), but that's not why it doesn't work either.

I think that my personal problem was actually with Orson. He's directed the look of it brilliantly: the cinematography is excellent, ( the opening shot is a lovely 'all-around-the-houses-and-then-right-in' tracking shot that was definitely the inspiration for the opening of 'Boogie Nights' ), but the point that he's trying to make, ( about policing and society), doesn't stick,- and the reason for this is his own character: Mr Quinlan.

Mr Quinlan has good old fashioned hard-boiled cop instincts and always gets his man; Hestons' Miguel ( in contrast ) sees policing as an ugly, difficult and fundamentally unrewarding job, that in order to be done effectively and well involves following every last part of procedure to the letter, ( even if it means the bad guy gets away,) because protecting the public comes first and catching the crooks comes second.

This is the big conflict behind the story, and it's an interesting one. Unfortunately, because Welles presents himself as a pantomime villain from the outset, it doesn't work. More ambiguous performances from both the main characters would have led me more into making up my own mind, and making in up my own mind I would have taken on board the theme and the issue.

It's an interesting point; it's almost a response or antidote to the 'Death wish/Dirty Harry' ethos that fillum coppers happily held right into the 90's. Unfortunately between studio butchery and Orsons' hammy delivery, it's a point that this fillum never really makes properly.

Very nice in places but ultimately unsatisfying. Worth watching though, if only for Marlene Deitrich's fantastic cameo ( She does deliver what must be the best 'you-googly' [eulogy] in history of film noir ):
"He was some kind of a man...

What does it matter what you say about people?"

EDIT: Apparently it does matter what you say about people: it matters whatyou say about Orson Welles anyway. Here's his, tragically resigned, response to a critic's take on the original fillum:

Without being quite so foolish as to set my name to that odious thing, a 'reply to the critic', perhaps I may add a few oddments of information to Mr. Whitebait's brief reference to my picture TOUCH OF EVIL (what a silly title, by the way; it's the first time I've heard it). Most serious film reviewers appear to be quite without knowledge of the hard facts involved in manufacturing and, especially, merchandising a motion picture. Such innocence, I'm sure, is very proper to their position; it is, therefore, not your critic I venture to set straight, but my own record. As author-director I was not and normally would not be-consulted on the matter of the 'release' of my film without a press showing. That this is an 'odd subterfuge', I agree; but there can be no speculation as to the responsibility for such a decision.

As to the reason, one can only assume that the distributor was so terrified of what the critics might write about it that a rash attempt was made to evade them altogether and smuggle TOUCH OF EVIL directly to the public. This is understandable in the light of the wholesale re-editing of the film by the executive producer, a process of re-hashing in which I was forbidden to participate. Confusion was further confounded by several added scenes which I did not write and was not invited to direct. No wonder Mr. Whitebait speaks of muddle. He is kind enough to say that 'Like Graham Greene' I have 'two levels'. To his charge that I have 'let the higher slip' I plead not guilty. When Mr. Greene finishes one of his 'entertainment's' he is immediately free to set his hand to more challenging enterprises. His typewriter is always available; my camera is not. A typewriter needs only paper; a camera uses film, requires subsidiary equipment by the truck-load and several hundreds of technicians. That is always the central fact about the film-maker as opposed to any other artist: he can never afford to own his own tools. The minimum kit is incredibly expensive; and one's opportunities to work with it are rarer less numerous than might be supposed. In my case, I've. been given the use of my tools exactly eight times in 20 years. Just once my own editing of the film has been the version put into release; and (excepting the Shakespearean experiments) I have only twice been given any voice at all as to the 'level' of my, subject matter. In my trunks stuffed with unproduced films scripts, there are no thrillers. When I make this sort of picture -- for which I can pretend to no special interest or aptitude -- it is not 'for the money' (I support myself as an actor), but because of a greedy need to exercise, in some way, the function of my choice: the function of director. Quite baldly, this is my only choice. I have to take whatever comes along from time to time, or accept, the alternative, which is not working.

Mr. Whitebait revives my own distress at the shapeless poverty of Macbeth's castle. The paper mache' stagy effect in my film was dictated by a 'B-Minus' budget with a 'quickie' shooting schedule of 20 days.. Returning to the current picture, since he comments on the richness of the urban scenery of the Mexican border' perhaps Mr. Whitebait will be amused to learn that all shooting was in Hollywood. There was no attempt to approximate reality; the film's entire 'world' being the director's invention. Finally, while the style of TOUCH OF EVIL may be somewhat overly baroque, there are positively no camera tricks. Nowadays the eye is tamed, I think, by the new wide screens. These 'systems' with their rigid technical limitations are in such monopoly that any vigorous use of the old black -and-white, normal aperture camera runs the risk of seeming tricky by comparison. The old camera permits use of a range of visual conventions as removed from 'realism' as grand opera. This is a language not a bag of tricks. If it is now a dead language, as a candid partisan of the old eloquence, I must face the likelihood that I shall not again be able to put it to the service of any theme of my own choosing.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lilya 4 ever

Lilya 4 ever is a Swedish fillum about a 16 year old Russian girl whose mother leaves her to go to America.

It's a good fillum and free to watch on Google video . Although it's a Swedish-made story,— the Swedes don't come across as very nice people in it; neither do the Russians, neither do men in general, neither do women in general neither do the youth and neither do old people.

So, in other words, it's a bit realistic.

If it doesn't sound like your cuppa tea, I wouldn't blame you, but, having watched it myself I can't recommend it strongly enough. For a start, Oksana Akinshina who plays the title role, was actually only fourteen when this came out which makes it the most impressive 'child-acting' I've ever seen in my entire puff, and as for the story that Lilya relates... shall I put it?

Okay, as luck would have it, I saw another child-acted film during the week called 'A Little Princess', a Disney fillum, tailor-made, it seemed, for little girls (not my own choice, but surprisingly watchable ).

In plot and theme Lilya 4 ever and A Little Princess have quite a bit in common.

Both plots revolve around young girls who begin 'on a perch' ( The wealthiest girl in the school/The girl whose emigrating from the dullest armpit of Sov-bloc to the US of A ) but both young ladies soon find themselves abandoned and destitute and hungry: both stories are about pride and they're both about poverty. Both characters have a partner in hunger and destitution with whom they have 'pillow-talk' scenes in the middle of the cold night.
Disney teaches us the tenet that
'All Little Girls are Princesses, rich or poor, pretty or plain, young or old'
and that if we just remember that, then all will come good in the end*.
* and the baddies will be
working as chimney sweeps,
— while our heroes depart in their 'carraige-and-pair'
on the way to their Mansion.

Lilya 4 ever doesn't teach the idea that all little girls are princesses:

Lilya 4 ever teaches something else entirely.