Friday, August 30, 2013

Gilbert Taylor (1914-2013)

This is an interview with British cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, who passed away last Friday, August 23rd, at age 99. Taylor is perhaps best remembered today as the director of photography on Star Wars (1977), though he had a long and notable career which included such films as Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (1964). This video interview, posted on YouTube by the Henderson's FilmIndustries channel, offers an interesting glimpse into the filming of one of the most famous sequences in the Star Wars films and is a nice tribute to this great cinematographer.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Douglas Slocombe - Behind the Camera

I came across this great interview with legendary British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, "Douglas Slocombe - Behind the Camera", from BBC2 and produced, directed and filmed by Richard Blanshard.

Slocombe turned 100 this year (2013) and is one of the real giants in his field. His career dates back to the early 1940s, including work for Britain's iconic Ealing comedies. Perhaps the best-known film he lensed during that phase of his career was Robert Hamer's landmark black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), with Alec Guinness. At the opposite end of his career, in the 1980s, Slocombe brought his considerable talents and strong visual sense to Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones trilogy. The final entry in that series, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) was also Slocombe's final film as a cinematographer.

This interview provides fascinating insight into this living legend and exceptionally talented artist whose name is perhaps not always as well known as it should be to film enthusiasts.

Douglas Slocombe - Behind the Camera from BSC on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Ten Steps (2004)

The Ten Steps is a supernatural horror from Ireland that starts with a simple premise (a young girl at home babysitting her brother while her parents are at dinner) and proceeds to go in a chilling direction that will make your hair stand on end.

I first saw this film as part of the Manhattan Short Film Festival, at the Senator Theater in Baltimore in 2005. I never forgot the film, and was glad to see it's available for viewing online.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Brewster's Millions (Allan Dwan, 1945)

George Barr McCutcheon’s old comic chestnut is given a fresh rendering in this 1945 version directed by Allan Dwan. Monty Brewster (Dennis O’Keefe) returns home from the service with plans to marry his sweetheart (Helen Walker), but his transition to civilian life is thrown into chaos when he finds out he stands to inherit 8 million dollars – provided he can spend a million dollars in two months and have absolutely nothing to show for it. Monty soon finds that a million is not as easy to blow through as he thought, and the money starts to have unexpected consequences.

Dwan keeps the comic proceedings moving at a frenetic pace, which at times seems to move as fast as HIS GIRL FRIDAY. The real fun comes in watching Brewster’s various spending schemes constantly go awry in unexpected ways. Dennis O’Keefe holds the zaniness together with his solid leading performance, sustaining a high level of nervous comic energy and anxiety, and ably supported by the likes of Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, John Litel, Joe Sawyer and Mischa Auer. Allan Dwan demonstrates his versatility with this fast and funny farce that has been filmed probably a half dozen times over the years with everyone from Fatty Arbuckle to John Candy.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kubrick on Directing

"Anyone who has ever been privileged to direct a film also knows that, although it can be like trying to write 'War and Peace' in a bumper car at an amusement park, when you finally get it right, there are not many joys in life that can equal the feeling." - Stanley Kubrick

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

An Orson Welles Discovery

In The New York Times this morning, Dave Kehr reported some very exciting news, that footage from Orson Welles' long-thought-lost film TOO MUCH JOHNSON had resurfaced in Pordenone, Italy.

Originally intended to be screened during performances of a play, "Too Much Johnson", which Welles was preparing to stage at the time, the footage was shot by Welles in the New York City area in 1938, and features an early appearance by Joseph Cotten along with other members of the show's cast. I first read about the film in Peter Cowie's The Cinema of Orson Welles, and from the descriptions of it, the film sounded like a tantalizing glimpse of Welles' early cinematic style, not to mention being of interest for the unique idea of blending film into a live stage performance.

Alas, at the time, the footage was considered lost. Fortunately copies were available of Welles' very first effort, HEARTS OF AGE (his homage to the experimental films of people like Cocteau, made while still in school in 1934), but - according to the article - the only known surviving footage of TOO MUCH JOHNSON was thought to have gone up in flames in Welles' Spanish villa in 1970.

Until now. The recovery of this footage will give us a chance to see a stage in Welles' cinematic development between his earliest effort and his first Hollywood film, CITIZEN KANE. But perhaps the most exciting part of this news is the reminder that lost films can and do still turn up, often in the most unlikeliest places.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Selznick and NeoRealism

An excellent video, "What is Neorealism?" was recently posted over on vimeo, created by filmmaker Ernie Park for Sight & Sound Magazine's May 2013 issue.

 The video essay examines the two stylistically different films that resulted from independent Hollywood producer David O. Selznick's collaboration with Italian NeoRealist filmmaker Vittorio DeSica. Theirs' was an unusual collaboration - one of Hollywood's top moguls, and one of the leading filmmakers of the emerging NeoRealist movement coming out of postwar Italy. I remember reading years ago that David O. Selznick had expressed an interest in producing DeSica's THE BICYCLE THIEF, provided it could star Cary Grant. As absurd as it sounds, I wonder what kind of film would have resulted from such a project?

 In any case, the idea of Selznick and DeSica remains an intriguing if apparently unsuccessful one. Maggie Lange's piece over at Gawker explains that their approaches did not jive, however, which resulted in two different films from the footage that came out of the project.