Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Beach Red

Beach Red is an old art house war film, made in 1967 by Cornel Wilde; a very talented man who was an expert actor, Olympic standard fencer, and also found the time and funding to direct several unusual films.

I’ve only ever seen Beach Red once, nearly 30 years ago one late night on BBC2. The thing that struck me about it at the time was it’s inspired title sequence, which features a series of paintings by two artists who seem completely unknown; Michael W Green and Takashi Tanaka. Even better, the title theme fits neatly into the plot, as our hero is an artist who ends up wounded and sharing a cigarette with a Japanese soldier who also happens to paint.

The release of the new Bond film A Quantum of Solace (nobody has ever named books as well as Ian Fleming) got me thinking about title sequences, and what a great art form they are.

It’s a shame they seemed to have almost died out, with some notable exceptions like Spielberg’s excellent Catch Me if You Can (2002) or Catherine Bigelow's Blue Steel (1990) whose title sequence was the only redeeming feature of the entire film. It was a horrible wonderful fetishistic examination of the Smith and Wesson .38 Police Special, which also happens to be my favourite revolver – in eight blissful sessions you could fire 48 rounds with the thing and not only would it never jam – but your wrists didn’t hurt afterwards.

Anyway, thanks to the wonder of You Tube, you can view the Beach Red title sequence here.

Nobody has posted the Blue Steel title sequence yet – some films are best forgotten…


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Happy Go Lucky

Mike Leigh might be the best British film maker alive and working.

Over the past 20 years he's built up a strong body of work that describes and examines the lives of ordinary British people and British society. He seems to do two types of films; the dark and the comedic, although there's a lot of overlap between the two.

In Happy Go Lucky Sally Hawkins plays Poppy, a 30 year old London Primary school teacher who always sees the best of things and is one of those blessed souls who's always happy. Pollyannas bring out the worst in me and within a few minutes I was determined to hate Poppy, but its a tribute to the script and the acting that I couldn't. As the film goes on she becomes more and more real and rounded and switched on. It's really an extraordinary character study, a kind of mirror image to Naked - a much darker film about a much darker character.

Something I really noticed this time was the brilliance of Mike Leigh's visual sense. Seldom remarked on, he's got a real talent for seeing the beauty in the deformed urban landscapes of Britain. We're lucky to have him... despite his taste in incidental music.


Monday, October 13, 2008

The Girlfriend Experience

It was a gorgeous week-end for October, and as usual I tried to pack too much into it and ended up ironing last night at 1:45AM.

But well before that K and myself went to see mutual friend Alecky Blythe's latest production at the Royal Court; The Girlfriend Experience.

Good to see a bit of well acted straight drama, with the twist that all dialogue is verbatum, and that the actors wear headphones throughout so that they can perfectly mimic the various pauses, breaths, swallows and other verbal tics of speech.

Alecky is working on a piece about the Ipswich murders next...