Posts Tagged ‘Film’

Martin Scorsese’s Living In The Material World – Trailer

Here it is, the trailer for Martin Scorsese’s film on George Harrison. I’ll be first in line for a ticket. I won’t buy popcorn though, it’s not a film to be munching through although I might consider it if they ever get round to making Cloverfield 2.

Serge Gainsbourg – More Than Meets The Eye

With the imminent British cinema release of the Serge Gainsbourg film Vie Heroique, it may be the case that the general opinion of the French cultural icon in the UK will be altered, and for the better. To many in Britain and indeed elsewhere, the name Serge Gainsbourg is familiar solely due to the worldwide smash hit Je t’aime moi non plus which he originally recorded with Brigitte Bardot but re-recorded with Jane Birkin which is the version that hit the charts with such oomph. For others, recognition could be down to the fact that on a French chat show in 1986 he told a completely unprepared Whitney Houston that he wanted to fuck her. It may simply be that people recognise his image as that of a quintessential Frenchman with a Gitane in one hand and a look of obstinance in his eyes. The fact is, he did write Je t’aime non plus, did tell Whitney about his sexual lusting and did look “French” to some casual observers (although he was in fact of Russian Jewish parentage). What I don’t think he got enough credit for outside his home land was the fact that he was also a great songwriter, producer and composer, something that has been far too overshadowed throughout the years. Hopefully the film will go some way to remedy this but thankfully there are books which have already cast light on the artistic life of Gainsbourg.

In A Fistful Of Gitanes, the music writer Sylvie Simmons does an admirable job of unravelling the different facets, talents and contradictions of the man and I would recommend it highly for those wanting to learn more. Somewhat surprisingly, at the moment there are only two books on Gainsbourg available in the English language but I haven’t read the other. Going by reviews afforded to it,  it’s a hastily cobbled together piece of work with more than a few factual inaccuracies to warrant never contemplating buying it. There are of course a multitude of books written in French and if your linguistic skills in that language are up to it a couple of worthy examples are Gainsbourg by Gilles Verlant and Mort Ou Vices by Bruno Bayon.

As much as he appeared the archetypal French artist, he had great regard for English music. When the music of the UK was taking the world by storm in the sixties, Serge decided to record in London with the best session musicians available. Some of these recordings can be found on the excellent compilation album Comic Strip which contains some of Serge’s most famous collaborations with Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin. This album like many others of Serge’s features his distinctive use of franglais and helps showcase his intelligent lyrics, sadly lost on those who cannot speak French. Merd.  Nonetheless, there’s nothing not to love about this rendition of Initials B.B., this one of Qui est in, qui est out and (et) the shear nonchalance in this rendition of 69 Annee Erotique.  I would of course recommend the full albums these songs are plucked from - Initials B.B. and Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg.

Perhaps the most celebrated Gainsbourg album is Histoire De Melody Nelson. This is an album that Beck has described as “one of the greatest marriages of rock band and orchestra I’ve ever heard”. It’s not surprising to find out he’s a fan having sampled several of Serge’s songs, all in a very good way I would hasten to add. It’s also worth reiterating that there aren’t too many French concept albums that mention the city of Sunderland, at least not that I am aware of. The plot of the story contained on this recording is a typically controversial one, the music sublime and very influential on not just Beck but also Jarvis Cocker, David Holmes and countless others. Even when he turned his hand to reggae, and lets face it French reggae has never been chart busting, the results were not just interesting but genuinely successful. This is partly down to again choosing the best musicians to work alongside. Traveling to Kingston to record the album Aux Armes et Cætera, Gainsbourg managed to acquire the services of reggae’s premiere rhythm section, Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar. Not only did this add to the records authenticity, it helped contribute to the very first appearance of reggae in French music. In fact, the experience was such a pleasurable one for Sly and Robbie that they even travelled to Europe to play gigs in support of the album.

Whilst his output of the eighties might not have matched that of the previous two decades, Serge remained an intriguing character with absolute hero status in France. It’s rather surprising that’s it’s taken until 19 years after his death for a biopic to be released but as they would no doubt say on the Left Bank, mieux vaut tard que jamais.

I hope that the film brings in a new audience for the man and his music whilst helping to in some way rid the caricature he remains to some. There is no denying he permanently had a Gitane hanging out his mouth or that he drank too much. No-one would dispute that he went out with some of the most beautiful women in the world whilst not being a natural beauty himself. It’s just that these tend to mask his genuine talent and hopefully the film will act as a catalyst for a greater number of people to discover his musical genius and indeed more about the man behind the image. I understand why much is written about him appearing drunk on a chat show or writing the album Rock Around The Bunker as opposed to the fact he was a loving father but I’m glad to know both sides of this captivating character. Thankfully, the broadsheet press in the UK seem to have cottoned on to the fact that there will be a renewed interest in him with recent articles to be found in The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent. It’s telling that Jane Birkin, his ex-girlfriend and mother of his daughter Charlotte, still speaks extremely fondly of him and how he is still sadly missed. You wouldn’t do that for someone who simply had a 60 a day snout habit and a penchant for booze and women would you?

Image – lastfm

The Big Triumvirate – Football, Culture and Nostalgia

I’ve been listening to quite a few debates on the radio recently concerning The World Cup and in particular the proposed introduction of goal line technology. I’m all for it as the absence of it has shown the multi-million pound tournament to be a tad farcical as a result. There have been many other debates flying around especially after England‘s exit at the hands of Germany. The whole country has been in a state of disbelief as to how such a bunch of talented players can’t perform on the world stage which has in turn led to a bout of national depression. As a Scot this is something I can fully empathise with. When Scotland have qualified for major tournaments in the past, they have gone there with hope and expectation which ultimately lead to failure and disappointment.

It’s at times such as these that culture can become even more of a trusted friend. Quite simply, a great album, book or film will never let you down. Conversely, a football team, even if you are Brazilian, will. I’m not sure how the millions who watched England being eliminated from the World Cup dealt with the blow of being dumped out the cup to a superior German side but I would imagine plenty alcohol was used as a crutch. This is fine for a short period of time but as Morrissey so presciently put it – “I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour, but heaven knows I’m miserable now”. I have walked home from watching football matches in the past with a hangover kicking in after seeing my team lose. It’s not a lot of fun. Over time I have learned to go straight for a piece of art that keeps on giving. It might be Forever Changes by Love or Marquee Moon by Television. It could be a dvd of All The President’s Men or The Lives Of Others. It may be a battered old copy of L’Etranger by Albert Camus or a relatively new copy of John Niven‘s Kill Your Friends. Point being, these examples and countless others will not let you down at any time but are especially welcome when dealing with sporting disaster. I hope this helps at least some of those who are despondent at their teams premature exit from the World Cup. There is another avenue to go down for comfort and that is nostalgia. Harking back to a time when your team were much better is understandable and it got me thinking about some of the things I miss about the football of yesteryear. Here are three examples -

1. I miss walking to a football ground as a young kid and getting a rush of excitement at the first sight of floodlight pylons in the distance, such as those of the old Hampden Park below.

2. I miss the design classic that was the Adidas Tango football. Still the greatest match ball ever.

3. I miss the fact that there was a time when you could buy replica football tops that weren’t emblazoned with a sponsors name thus maintaining a simplistic yet cool aesthetic.

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In Appreciation of… Bob Monkhouse

In recent years British broadcasting has seen something of a resurgence of the old guard. The television careers of Bruce Forsyth, Terry Wogan and Noel Edmonds to name but three have been reinvigorated and they are now regularly seen on our screens once more. There is another name that could easily have been added to this list had it not been for his very sad passing in 2003, that name is Bob Monkhouse.

I actually see Bob in a bracket all of his own. As a performer, his skills in ad-libbing and improvisation were more than a match not just for his contemporaries but also those who would follow him the worlds of comedy and entertainment. Aside from writing and performing  he remained a fervent  fan and devotee of film and comedy throughout his life. He owned a vast personal collection of rare films and a legendary compendium of joke books which were famously stolen in 1995 and then returned eighteen months later on the back of a ten thousand pound reward.

I had the great pleasure of working with Bob in his latter years but I’ll come to that shortly. My first memory of seeing him was when he hosted Family Fortunes. Of course, he hosted many quiz shows throughout his career including The Golden Shot, Celebrity Squares and Wipeout and to some that’s all he was, a quiz show host. This is somewhat inaccurate as he did much more in a career that proved as varied as it was successful.

In his early days Bob was predominantly a writer with early examples of his work found in The Beano and The Dandy comics. He then teamed up with his one time writing partner Dennis Goodwin to provide jokes for the comedians and stars of the day ranging from Arthur Askey and Max Miller to Bob Hope and even Frank Sinatra. Albeit keeping him in money these writing gigs didn’t give Bob the fame he achieved as a presenter of numerous quiz shows, as host of Sunday Night At The London Palladium and as an actor in British films such as Carry On Sergeant in 1958 and Dentist In The Chair in 1960.  He would continue to perform standup throughout this period and is viewed by many of todays comedians as something of a godfather figure. There is a great early clip of him on You Tube to be found here and it’s a quite exquisite insight into the mans comic capabilities.

So to my personal experience of working with Bob. In my second ever tv job I bagged the role as roving reporter on a BBC programme called The Bob Monkhouse DIY Film Show. As the title suggests the show looked at all aspects of do it yourself filmmaking as well as interviewing directors, actors and producers. This really was a dream job for me as firstly I have always been a massive film fan, secondly I got my first job in television on the back of a short film I had made and thirdly, I had the chance meet Bob Monkhouse!

The bulk of my filming was done independently with a separate crew as I was at a film premiere one minute and then at a film festival the next whereas Bob was at different locations filming his links. Luckily there was to be one day when we were both filming at the same location and to say I was excited about this would be an understatement. Due to the intensity of the days shoot I didn’t get a chance to speak to him until lunchtime when thanks to a producer who knew I was a fan, I was placed next to him at the dinner table. Nervously, I quickly introduced myself but Bob immediately put me at ease and said the pleasure was all his which was a very kind gesture on his part. For the following half an hour we chatted, or more precisely, Bob chatted and I intently listened. What struck me most was his vast knowledge of film. I could have listened to his anecdotes for weeks although trying to recall all the details now is slightly difficult as I think I must have been in a bit of a daze at the time. I do remember spending a good while discussing Jack Nicholson and in particular the film As Good As It Gets which along with wife Jackie who was also present, Bob was a big fan of.

At the end of lunch Bob decided to go to his trailer and I saw this as a chance to fulfill a promise to my Dad. When I received the news that I would be working with Bob my Dad had mentioned that he had a Bob Monkhouse book and if I ever got the chance for Bob to sign it he would be most grateful. As Bob made his way to the trailer I saw it as my window of opportunity. Luckily I had the book on my person along with a good quality pen. As Bob had left the table shortly before me I had to be quick but succeeded in catching up with him and with a quick precursory clearing of the throat asked if he would do the necessary. I was worried that I might not be the first to have put in such a request that day but if I was just the latest in a long line of fans craving a signature Bob certainly never let on. He was pleased to sign a copy of Over The Limit: My Secret Diaries 1993-8 but it wasn’t until reading the message he had left some moments later that the true character of the man became even more apparent. The message he wrote read “For Ian – my life is in your hands. Hope this book makes you smile – (from the author, a friend of Douglas) Bob Monkhouse. 30:5:00.” I was genuinely touched by what I read and didn’t care if he had written similar messages many times before for other fans of his work. There it was in black and white.

It was with obvious sadness that I heard the news of Bob’s death in December 2003 although it wasn’t a great surprise as he had been battling cancer for some time. It was testament to the man that he kept performing as much as his body would let him while all the time his mind and wit remained as sharp as ever. In the subsequent years since his passing I’m glad he is increasingly viewed as a great comedian and writer and not just a quiz show host, not that there should be any stigma attached to presenting such formats if you do it as well as he did. He made it look alarmingly easy and that just serves to accentuate the supreme quality of his performing skills. There are many words which would contribute to an adequate description of  Bob – comedian, writer, host, entertainer and actor would all suffice.  I would of course also add just one more – friend.

Image – John Gushue

Breathless For Lenin – French and German Filmmaking

It’s 50 years since Jean-Luc Godard‘s first feature A Bout de Souffle or Breathless to use its English title, opened. Obviously, it’s a hugely important film in the evolution of cinema with much being written about it. Some interesting examples for perusal include a visual overview of the film from The Telegraph, an examination of its use of editing by Nick Lacey and an essay by Dennis Grunes . I first saw the film over ten years ago and it’s certainly up there with my favourite French films such as Les Valseuses, La Haine, 36 Quai des Orfevres and Mesrine: L’instinct de mort to name but a few.

Whilst we are led to believe that French cinema produces some of the greatest films in Europe, a point I wouldn’t argue against, the fact is that over the last few years the foreign language films which have had the most profound affect on me are in fact German. Examples of this include Goodbye Lenin, The Lives Of Others and The Counterfeiters. I once heard it argued that the German language is a tad too harsh on the ear especially when compared to the French language but I don’t believe this to be the case. Moreover, if the script is well written and acted out with aplomb, German filmmaking is more than a match for the French. I will always prefer the cheese making capabilities of the latter though.

Image 1 – Modernariato

Image 2 – moviebase