Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Art Decades Magazine: A Terrific Triple Bill

Since I wrote about the debut issue of Art Decades magazine, Jeremy and his team have gone from strength to strength, with a further 3 issues to enjoy.
Disclosure: editor Jeremy Richey - an extraordinary writer and also editor of this fine magazine - was kind enough to ask me to contribute. In all honesty, my contributions pale into insignificance compared to the other writers who have made this magazine essential reading. So, no mention of my own specific work here. Instead, let's highlight what the team has been covering.
There's a great piece in issue 2 by Tara Hanks on Pauline Boty - who was "one of Britain's most vital young artists". Pauline passed away in 1966 but lives on through her work and the recognition she gets in articles such as this.

Fans of The Ravonettes will certainly be delighted by an interview with the band conducted by Jeremy and his wife Kelley. It's a beefy 6 page affair, which is followed by Kelley's take on what the band means to her. Jeremy's album by album look at the band is another gem, and the same can be said of Erich Kuersten's look at the career of Lou Reed: this episode looking at the 70s. There's also a Mary Woronov interview, conducted by Dave Stewart; video essayist Nelson Carvajal in conversation with Marcelline Block; a Daniele Santaguliana interview conducted by Salem Kapaski and JD Lafrance's look at "The Snarkout Boys and The Avocado Of Death" novel.Also, you'll surely love some terrific photography. I believe every photograph has a soul, and the artists here - including the talented Whitley Brandenberg - capture the soul on every shot.

You can purchase issue 2 by clicking HERE

Issue 3 continues Jeremy's theme of a magazine "driven by strong female voices" and includes a great interview with one of his heroes, Maria McKee. The wonderful Viv Albertine talks about The Slits, her fabulous album "The Vermillion Border" and her life during and after Punk in Dave Stewarts' interview.Part 3 of Erich's Lou Reed retro; Heather Drain's great piece on "The Devils"; Claudia Siefen's stimulating look at Masao Adachi; an article on the bruised beauty of Lana Del Ray from Tara Hanks; Michelle Alexander's article on Mike Patton; more sterling work from Jeremy on Maria McKee; Bryce Wilson on the cinema of George A Romero; Kelley's interview with Laura Sfez, and an Eric Bell interview from Silver Ferox.
The standard of writing and creativity are of the highest order, with a ton of recommendations on artists you may not have previously encountered, and fresh interpretations of old favourites.

Pure gold.You can order your copy by clicking HERE

Issue 4 includes Jeremy's interview with editor, video-essayist and writer Serena Bramble, and interviews with Emma Anderson and Miki Berenyi. This is part of a fantastic tribute to the band Lush, which also features an album by album article from Jeremy. There's an artists profile on the talented Kimbre Woods; Tanner Tafelski's look at Taylor Mead; Ric Menello on Claude Chabrol by Aaron Graham; Indie filmmaker Brandon Colvin interviewed by Marcelline Block; more Lou Reed and some more classic photography with images and gorgeous actresses forming a story in your mind.

You can purchase issue 4 by clicking HERE

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

DVD Review:The Green Man BBC TV Series Albert Finney ( Simply Media)

Based on the 1969 novel by Kingsley Amis, this television mini series was aired by BBC2 on 28th October 1990. Just im time for Halloween.
Maurice Allington (Albert Finney) is the 53 year old proprietor of The Green Man; a guest house set in the picturesque county of Cambridgeshire. Allington turns out to be a serial seducer with a taste for wooing female guests, paying little attention to his second wife Joyce, played by the smouldering Linda Marlowe.
Reviews in good food guides reveal The Green Man has a resident ghost; a tale that Allington exploits to widen his customer base and enthral guests with ghostly stories, neatly upping their alcohol intake and overall spend.
Allington - who does not believe in an after life - is clearly making it up as he goes along, and puts his sighting of a mysterious red haired lady on the stairs down to a mixture of hallucinations and his almost permanently drunken state.
When his father (Michael Hordern) dies of a stroke at the dinner table, it's clear cause of death was instigated by a vision of something very frightening that is linked to the tale of a 17th century cleric named Underhill.
Dr. Underhill (Michael Culver) dabbled in the occult, with the murder of his wife and an appalling sexual preference for very young girls following him to the grave and beyond.
Now Underhill has returned, promising Allington that "I will show you the shape of you."

"The Green Man" is really a triumvirate: part morality tale, sexual farce and very scary story with some achingly funny moments, bedroom and outdoors high jinx, and spine chilling scenes that sometimes recall the fiction of M.R. James and the nightmarish tree attack from "The Evil Dead."
Allington - beautifully played by Finney when he was 54 and close to his character's age - is a loveable rogue at times, gaining the support of a trio who number his daughter-in-law Lucy (Josie Lawrence); Diana (Sarah Berger), his latest sexual conquest and the local vicar Sonnenschein (Nickolas Grace) who is required to get into exorcist character as Underhill tightens his grip.
It's certainly a busy, lively little number, including a proposed threesome between Maurice, Joyce and Diana; a trip to a fictitious Cambridge college for some Jamesian research on the depraved Doctor; an enormously unsettling grave robbing scene and a personal appearance from God.
The special effects are excellent, combining gore with subtle, memorably spooky imagery, driven by Tim Souster's score and the performances are straight down the line delightful.
There's also a healthy split of opinion on the subject of life after death. Allington's first wife was kncoked down by a car, and it's fascinating to watch his initial scepticism eventually disappear as he relaises his own physical and mental problems are but the tip of the iceberg.

"The Green Man" was honoured at the 1991 Bafta awards, with Tim Souster winning for Best Original Television Music, and Finney received a nomination for Best Actor: small wonder that director Elijah Moshinsky didn't receive a nod for his considerable skills behind the camera.
This TV series comprises of three epsiodes, each running around the 49 minute mark, and has extended its popularity to other countries including the United States.
It's good to see this entertaining series resurrected on DVD by Simply Media.
Image quality is first-rate and the dialogue and soundtrack crystal clear.
Each episode has been given 6 chapter stops, and an English subtitle option is also provided.
A superior slice of television, guaranteed to give you goose bumps during those long Winter evenings.
Oh, do watch out for cameos from Clement Freud and Bernard Levin!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Blu-ray Review: Night And The City (BFI)

Meet Harry Fabian. Truth to tell, he's probably not the type of person you'd wish to encounter but it wasn't always like that.
Witness the scene where long suffering partner Mary (Gene Tierney) picks up a photograph of the pair and declares "Look at the people we used to be."Somewhere along the line, Fabian - played by Richard Widmark - was a decent man until his desire to be someone well and truly took root. Now, Harry is a hustler chasing the big bucks via a series of moneymaking schemes that end in tears, invariably leaving his partner holding the dirty end of the stick.
£100, £400 or a crisp £5 note... to Harry, it's just stake money on a game that can't go wrong but always does.
He inhabits a shadowy world where forgers, hookers and spivs peddle their wares, with enough mug punters and desperate clients to keep the wheels turning nicely. Harry's latest venture involves the chance to run London's wrestling circuit, after an encounter with old-time legend Gregorius ( Stanislaus Zbyszko) whose son Kristo (Herbert Lom) can see through Harry immediately. Thus, father is turned against son while Harry's endeavours to secure finance for a clash of wrestling titans may well make him the someone he craves to be.
Harry gets one half of the backing from Philips Nosseross (Francis L. Sullivan); owner of The Silver Fox club, whose wife Helen (Googie Withers)sees a way out of their marriage, aiming for a life of "ease and plenty" as Fabian is so fond of saying. This ill-fated alliance leaves battle-scarred victims in its wake, with scarely a likeable character on view. Even bumbling gourmet Adam Dunn (Hugh Marlowe) sets the hackles rising, just waiting for Fabian to trip up for the final time so he can win Mary's affections. In the end, it's only Gregorius that wins any sympathy, really tugging at our heartstrings when he asks for a window to be closed in a highly emotional scene.
For all that, it's a pleasure to watch the cast at work: Withers as the deliciously self-centred Helen; Sullivan having a ball with big Phil's scheming character and Widmark's take on Fabian who ultimately discovers that London is a very small place when you're on the run.

DOP Max Greene constructed a marvellous monochrome world here, with low camera angles, shadows on walls and ceilngs and famous London landmarks acting as a backdrop to enthralling doses of backstabbing and nefarious dealing in 1940s London.
Quite possibly director Jules Dasson's finest, and a film noir par excellence.

Green's cinematography certainly looks even more impressive on the BFI Blu-ray which unveils the American version of this film from a 4K scan. The films looks gorgeous here, with excellent contrast and detail, while the British version benefits from a 2K scan. There are several differences between the two cuts: the English version initially gives us a glimpse of two people reminded even more strongly of how things were before Harry's hare-brained ideas held sway and there's a different take on the scene where Helen Nosseross makes a startling discovery.
The two versions have different scores: Franz Waxman on the American version and Benjamin Frankel on the British cut which also features narration from Dassin.

The extras begin with two commentary tracks. The American cut sees Paul Duncan - writer and editor of film noir books - take the microphone. Paul talks about Gerald Kersh's novel; script revision; various stars who were approached to appear in the film; the challenges posed by shooting at busy London locations and MPAA directives regarding some of the scenes. The English version offers a commentary track from film scholar Adrian Martin who highlights the differences between the two cuts and the cosmopolitan aspects of the film. Adrian also discusses the novel; identifies locations used in the film and makes comparisons with both Orson Welles and "Force Of Evil".
Two excellent tracks that will heighten your appreciation of just what was accomplished here.

Next up is The Guardian Lecture: Jules Dassin Interviewed By Alexander Walker. (51m 38s)
The interview plays out to a series of images from the film, and includes Dassin's recollection of how he made the transition to Hollywood - a place that had "very little mind of its own." Dassin recalls films that influenced him; discusses the blacklist and his subpoena to appear before the Unamerican Activities Committee, and also takes questions from the audience for the last 5 minutes.

Richard Widmark Interviewed By Adrian Wooton At The National Film Theatre (1 hr 12m)

Recorded in July 2002, this very special event is a joy to view. Widmark talks fondly about his radio and theatre days; his debut feature in 1947 titled "Kiss Of Death"; his approach to acting and love of the studio system and the "great experience" of working on "Night And The City". Again, the audience are invited to ask questions, which include a query about the differences between acting in monochrome and colour which brought the house down. Hugely entertaining and informative.

The BFI have included a booklet which features an essay by Lee Server; Paul Duncan's piece on the film, novel and remake, and James Hahn's article on the two versions of the film.
A highly recommended release.