Sunday, 15 February 2015

(47) Short Film Sunday #30: Härlig är jorden (World of Glory) (1991)

World of Glory (1991).
Some time has passed since I wrote here last, even longer time has past since the last Short Film Sunday. Recently I started a course on FutureLearn about filmmaking and there the course participants were encouraged to name their favourite short films as well as explore some more on the links they provided - Short of the Week,, etc. - and that reminded me of my blog and my Short Film Sundays, and even more, it encouraged me to write another post on the film that I saw on the latter link provided. So here it is, the 30th Short Film Sunday will present to you World of Glory (1991) directed by a Swedish director Roy Andersson.
The film starts with a simple static shot, that you can see in the above image, and from time to time one and the same man looks back at the camera. The film continues then with the man telling his life story while watching straight in the camera. The main protagonist tells the story in a Beckett like manner of calling out a list of the things and people from his life - this is my mother, this is where I sleep and so on and so on - in a bare voice, that lacks any emotions. It is hard to grasp the full meaning of the film, though it delivers the message that "Life is quite short, after all." The film's last shot and monologue ties in with the first static shot; and in some way it reveals the meaning of this quaint and unique story.
The short film will leave you pondering on it for a while, and I am sure that each will take something else from it. Let it sink in.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

(46) Book Review: "My Lunches with Orson" edited by Peter Biskind (2013)

My Lunches with Orson edited by Peter Biskind (2013).

It took me a while to finish the last thirty pages or the last two conversations of the book, it was neither because the book got boring, nor because the conversations were not engaging, it was only because I knew the ending of it - Orson Welles will die. After acquiring such engaging, delightful, humorous and witty friends - Orson Welles and Henry Jaglom - it seemed unfair and hard that I will have to leave them sitting in Ma Maison by their lunch table. But it has come to that - the book is finished. This is The End. I am left in awe that for a quite some while I had two intelligent, shameless and captivating lunch chums.

I have no doubt that after reading this book quite a few directors are grinding their teeth, because now not only they have to compete with Welles as a filmmaker, but also as a brilliant raconteur outside of the film set.
From 1983 till 1985 Henry Jaglom, the director and friend of Welles, recorded his conversations with Welles over lunches at Ma Maison, the bistro in Hollywood. Not sure whether these recordings were Welles approved or not, because the "tape recorder was one of the only two things we [Jaglom and Welles] didn't speak about. The other was his [Welles] weight and its health implications." (Biskind 289), they reveal Welles unplugged, and it can be said with a certainty that throughout his life Welles stayed a first-rate raconteur and storyteller.

Orson Welles, 1977.
There is no need for a long introduction to Orson Welles (1915-1985), what he was and what he did, his work does the talking, moreover Welles was not only a skilled director, he was also a producer, an actor, a screenwriter, an author of essays, articles, plays and stories, and quite often he was joggling from one profession to other, often pressured for financial reasons. As Jean-Luc Godard remarked, "Everyone will always owe him everything." (Biskind 2). Now back to the lunch table, while I reveal for you some of my favourite moments from this enchanting book.

In the conversations with Jaglom, Welles is truthful, harsh, intimate, gives a revealing insight into a film industry, he is honest, rude and shocking, he has opinion on and about everything and everyone. Despite all that, Welles was an unlucky wretch when it came down to selling his own work, that can be seen in the conversation where Susan Smith from HBO joins Welles and Jaglom's lunch table, as Welles himself admits "I'm a bad seller."

Remembering that Marilyn Monroe was born on this day, June 1, I must note, true or not, but there might'n be Monroe, as we know her, if not for Welles. He tried to promote her career by taking her to the parties and introducing her to people, as Welles notes in the 6th conversation with Jaglom:
I [Welles] would point Marilyn out to Darryl [Zanuck], and  say, "What a sensational girl." He would answer, "She's just another stock player. We've got hundred of them. Stop trying to push these cunts on me. We've got her on for $125 a week." And then about six months later, Darryl was paying Marilyn $400,000, and the men were looking at her - because some stamp had been put on her.
In the first conversation Welles talks about "such a thing as physical  dislike" in which he states how much he dislikes Woody Allen physically and how Allen has "the Chaplin disease" - a particular "combination of arrogance and timidity", later in the same conversation Welles describes Brando's neck being "like a huge sausage, a shoe made of flesh" and reveals that he is a racist and dismisses Spencer Tracy as "one of those bitchy Irishmen", and states how he prefers Irishmen from Ireland over Irish-Americans:
Seven hundred years of bitter oppression changed their [Irish] character, gave them that passive meanness and cunning. All I can say is what Micheál Mac Liammóir said when we were making Othello, and I asked him, "Describe the Irish in one word." He said, "Malice." Look, I [Welles] love Ireland, I love Irish literature, I love everything they do, you know. But the Irish-Americans have invented an imitation Ireland which is unspeakable. The wearin' o' the green. Oh, my God, to vomit!
After living for a year in Ireland and now visiting for the last two years, I felt particularly excited, when I got to know that Welles has met William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory and other "famous Gaelic nationalists"; who knows maybe he walked around Coole Park and maybe I have walked where he once walked.

This is only a dip in the first forty or so pages of the book, I have to stop now, before I re-tell you all of the stories. Every conversation will make you laugh, cry, yell, smile or argue back, it definitely won't leave you apathetic. So next time, when you sit down to a lunch table use this opportunity to get closer to a legend, Orson Welles, in the best part he has ever played - Orson Welles.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

(45) Penny Dreadful (2014-): "Enter freely and of your own free will!"*

Penny Dreadful (2014-).

Quite some long time ago after watching Dark Shadows (2012) and once again being impressed by Eva Green I checked her IMDb page to see whether there might be some film or TV series with her that I haven't seen. At a time there were quite a few films in pre- and post-production, as well as a TV series Penny Dreadful, for which synopsis were more than fascinating. Thus every few months I wrote down reminders, so that I wouldn't forget about it. Now with a shimmering zeal in my eyes I can tell you, my dear reader, that it is only one month left till the premiere of Penny Dreadful.

The term 'penny dreadful' comes from mid-nineteenth century Britain, when demand for literature increased. The penny dreadfuls were a cheaper alternative to mainstream fictional works. It was a type of British fiction that featured serial stories, which came out over a number of weeks, and, accordingly, each part of the story cost but one old penny. They were called 'penny dreadfuls' because of their cheap nature and poor and 'dreadful' quality, nevertheless, they were popular publications and met the desires of the working class. Penny dreadfuls were not the most enlightening literature, however, they increased the literacy level in the industrial Britain. As creator and executive producer of the new TV series John Logan asserted in one of the behind the scenes video on Penny Dreadful blog: "What did Victorian's do?", as one might suspect, they didn't have TV, radio, internet or cinema, so "They read penny dreadfuls or they went to the theater."

Just like penny dreadfuls were serial stories, so is the Showtime eight episode TV series Penny Dreadful, which will contain different literary characters. From synopsis (Showtime homepage):
Some of literature's most terrifying characters, including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and iconic figures from the novel Dracula are lurking in the darkest corners of Victorian London. Penny Dreadful is a frightening psychological thriller that weaves together these classic horror origin stories into a new adult drama.
The TV series is set in 1891 in the time of Victorian society. Logan chose to set the series in this time period
not because it would be cool visually but because the Victorian era reminds me of right now ... They were on the cusp of the modern world … grappling with the very elemental question of what it means to be human. I sit down at my computer and I don't understand any of the new world zooming toward us. We're on the cusp of the same thing now: There's frightening dissonance and excitement for unchartered waters. We will pull these characters from where they're comfortable into unchartered waters, and, to me, that makes good drama. (The Hollywood Reporter)
Penny Dreadful is produced in Dublin, Ireland, created by John Logan, and stars Eva Green (The Dreamers, Cracks, Dark Shadows), Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights, Hot Fuzz) and Josh Hartnett (Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor).

Open up your organizers and mark it down - the new TV series Penny Dreadful will be premiered on Sunday, May 11, 2014.

For US viewers it will be broadcast on Showtime.
For Ireland and UK viewers it will be broadcast on Sky Atlantic.

See the full trailer below:

For more information and behind the scenes videos visit Penny Dreadful production blog.

*Bram Stoker, "Dracula".