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La leggenda del santo bevitore

Poignant and moving Euro art movie from '88-89
Dutch actor Rutger Hauer plays the part of Andreas Kartak a Catholic-Pole and tramp living in Paris. An ex-coal-miner he receives 200 francs from a well-to-do dapper gentleman (Anthony Quayle) as long as he donates part of it to charity. In appearance he sports medium-length wavy fairhair, a flatcap and moustache plus traces of coal-dust under his fingernails - a tell-tale sign of the trade of coal-miner - a rough-tough job to say the least. He finds work, the company of women and the companionship of fellow Poles but is let down by his alcoholism, imprudence if not stupidity and an extreme sense of bad luck. The film shows warmth and a rich spiritual feel - it has the same sense of art & spirituality as Dostoyevsky's novel The Idiot featuring the Russian Prince Leo. The '80s were in some ways abrasive years. Paris is revealed as a timeless organically glamorous city. Why the film feels poignant is hard to describe. Along with his performance as the fairhaired adventurer Claude Van Horn in Roeg's Eureka (1983) this is Hauer's best ever performance.

F for Fake

Wellesian flair
F For Fake from 1973 is a remarkably enterprising documentary relating to the nature of art, charlatanry, illusionism and fakery. It documents US scribe Clifford Irving's fake biography of Howard Hughes, little East European art forger Elmyr De Hory's take on Matisse, Vlaminck, Van Dongen, Picasso etc and Welles' own ruse relating to The War of the Worlds in the '30s. Packed full of uneven and unpredictble and fascinating images - Welles encounters a glamorous Spanish-Polish aristocrat - Prince Adam Czartoryski at a party in Ibiza, we see him dine out at the famous Paris restaurant - La Mediterranee with his glamorous friends, he waxes lyrical about Chartres Cathedral, the neon cityscape of Las Vegas, street scenes of Rome and Ibiza he also performs magic tricks. The editing is quite superb.

The Island of Dr. Moreau

Enterprising science-fiction/adventure film with serious underlying issues
Produced in the second half of 1995 in tropical Queensland this science-fiction film has the ambition of an 'adventure' film and deals with serious contemporary issues such as fears of genetic engineering/mutation, aggressive tendencies in the human and animal world and the context of nature. The visual props/relationships are amazing:- skulls of exotic animals, interesting framed high-quality acrylic/oil paintings and murals, classical busts, the light wooden hues flanking the walls in Moreau's house, sophisticated lighting- super-bright electric Cambridge-blue and pure neon white colours and shimmering chrome props and tubes and scientific hardware, the deployment of 17th/18th-Century baroque oratorios and Balinese music in the background. In appearance Brando is tubby - he sports a golden/green silk kimono, bandanas, granny glasses, steel wristwatch and cropped silver hair and re-deploys the preposterous upper-crust English accent of his Fletcher Christian (Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)) and Sir William Walker (Burn! (1968-1970)) - which were adventurous flairful performances. Young Mancunian actor David Thewlis (Naked (1993)) shows Northern English common sense. The special effects - explosions, makeup, costumes etc are very impressive. The opening credits are sensational - a montage of embryos, cells, aggressive spermatozoa, flashing vulpine eyes, moody pinkish/brown tropical skies, screeching animal cries etc while William Fraker's digital video camerwork is pin-sharp.

The Voyage of Charles Darwin

Scientifically fascinating documentary series - easily the best ever made
The Voyage of Charles Darwin (1978) is the best documentary series I have ever seen:- it is academic and is directed with adventurism and pure enterprise. It combines stolid B.B.C. empiricist/commonsense production values with metaphysical even Nietzschean undertones. The graceful young English actor Malcolm Stoddard is very impressive - in appearance he is gaunt and slightly Chaucerian. The natural wonders of Latin America and the Galapagos Islands are beautifully recorded by the B.B.C. camera unit ranging from rheas on the Argentinian pampas to manta rays in the Pacific Ocean. The urban aesthetics of Cambridge, Salvador and Rio in Brazil and Valparaiso in Chile are very well photographed as well. Darwin's encounter with the caudillo-figure General Rosas on the pampas reveal Darwin's fears of genocide a propos of Rosas' war against the indians. Repeateded at Christmas 1995 and produced at a time when the B.B.C. showed subtlety and purpose and could conjure higher classical things with good taste and a sense of transcendent significance this documentary series shows how manifold and original '70s television could be and is inspiring in these dumbed down and superficial times. Especially worth mentioning is the very adventurous adventure film The Darwin Adventure ('71-72) starring young handsome English actor Nicholas Clay, Ian Richardson, Tony Robinson (Time Team), Christopher Martin and Rollo Gamble and directed by US director Jack Couffer. Photographed in organic and subtle pastel colours by Denys Coop and in scattered and diverse locations including Barro Colorado Island Panama, The Monkey Jungle in Miami, Kenya, the Galapagos Islands, the Falkland Islands, the Amazon Delta, Spain and Kenya between 1968 and 1971 - the early-'70s were pioneering years. The Observer's Philip French described it as 'breathtaking' back in 2009.

Pocket Money

A wryand lyrical modern-day western from '71-72
A low-key and wry modern-day western from the early-'70s. Filmed in Arizona and Northern Mexico in the spring and early summer of 1971 and shown in cinemas in that most downbeat of hippy years -1972: it records the 'feel' of the early-'70s which were pioneering years so well. Jim Kane (good-looking blue-eyed US actor Paul Newman) is a naive, broke and in debt cowpoke. Needing the money, he agrees to work for a pair of crooked rodeo cattle dealers -Bill Garrett (Strother Martin) and Stretch Russell (Wayne Rogers) who hire him to squire 200 steers from Mexico to Arizona. Kane locates his equally broke buddy Leonard (Lee Marvin) in a Mexican hotel room and the two undertake the imprudent business venture with failed results. The inner rhythm of the film is strange and languid. It features some great scenes - the sun-bleached urban aesthetics of Nogales, Phoenix, Chihuahua and Hermosilla and the enchanted and evocative interior scenes featuring bordellos, bars, Mexican mariachi/rock and roll musicians, street hucksters, tarts etc plus the barren cattlelands of Northern Mexico and the Mexican transport/rail infrastructure ca. '71-72. Leonard - who sports white hair, a 'Forties style suit, fedora hat and jazzy tie in one scene is seen imbibing olives, fajitas, tacos, chili and Cuervos-brand tequila while the very '70s fight scene between Newman and a young Mexican employee called Chavarin (Gregory Sierra) is both authentic and hilarious. Pocket Money is in my top ten films of all time.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Flair and adventure from '54
An amazing infant-fresh adventure film from 1954. Kirk Douglas' Nietzschean performance as sailor Ned Land is imbued with an absurd sense of power and flair. He sports curly fair hair, fiery green/blue eyes and a red-and-white-striped t-shirt. The fight with the giant squid is one of the great bravura set-pieces in cinema history when Douglas spears the monster with an Alexandrian flair and in one scene Douglas seems to sprint away from angry cannibals on a tropical desert island at superhuman speed. Yorkshireman James Mason adds class as the anguished swarthy bearded Captain Nemo. London's Time Out Film Guide describes it as as -'one of the great movie adventures' and the 'beautiful Nautilus submarine with its lush Victorian interior'.

The Darwin Adventure

Low-key but lavish adventure film from '71-72
The Darwin Adventure (1971-1972) is a subtle but very adventurous adventure film from the early-'70s which were pioneering years. The compelling visions conjured by Denys Coop's camera are both pastoral and organic. US director Jack Couffer photographed and compiled 60000 feet of nature scenes filmed in such diverse and scattered locations as Spain, the Amazon delta, Tierra Del Fuego, the Falkland Islands, Kenya (Lake Baringo), the Galapagos Islands, Barro Colorado Island in Panama and the Monkey Jungle in Florida showing startling purpose, while filming also took place in the summer and autumn of 1971 at Colchester and Harefield House, Denham, London. The variety of wildlife includes orangutans, gorillas, marine and land iguanas, a critical mass of flying birds (gannets?), bull sealions, army ants, vampire bats and jesus lizards etc. The natural wonders of Latin American geography are depicted by images of the granite-like promontories of the Andes mountain range and the verdant tropical Brazilian rainforest. Darwin is played by young handsome English actor, Nicholas Clay who sports wavy chestnut hair and Regency-Era costume at the time of the voyage and he shows both subtlety and flair. Captain Fitzroy is played by Ian Richardson while the dapper silver haired mutton-chop sporting Carl Bernard plays Moreno the Governor of the Galapagos Islands and Tony Robinson plays a man in the crowd at the meeting of the British Association held at Oxford in 1860. Other memorable scenes include time-lapse images of what look like budding Scottish thistles and fox-gloves (?). The Observer's Philip French described this movie as being 'simple but ambitious and breathtaking' back in 2009 and I think that it was last aired on B.B.C. 2 back in October 1982 and more recently in the US. Especially worth mentioning is the documentary series The Voyage of Charles Darwin (1978) starring the graceful and slightly Chaucerian English actor Malcolm Stoddard.

Un uomo da rispettare

An interesting low-key crime movie from '72
This West German/Italian production seems to capture the pneuma of that most down-beat of hippy years - 1972 so well with its green/grey tones. Vigorous, steely-eyed, cleft-chinned American star Kirk Douglas is in good shape at 55-years-of-age and is professionally excellent. He plays a recently released convict and safecracker, Steve Wallace who is contracted to do one more job on a Hamburg bank which would set him up for life. Vis-a-vis the technology and props used in the art direction it would seem that the director in 1972 had an eye on the future. The impressive sophisticated bank vault itself includes a huge circular steel structure, shimmering chrome and steel panels etc to conjure a timeless aspect ca. 1972 which was also the year that Charlton Heston's Antony & Cleopatra, The Darwin Adventure (starring young handsome English actor, Nicholas Clay) and Pocket Money (starring Paul Newman and Lee Marvin) were released. The film evocatively ends in a Hamburg coal-dump located near the docks which evokes the industry of Hamburg at the time. Released in UK cinemas in May 1973.

That Hamilton Woman

A flair performance by Olivier
This period piece and melodrama produced in Hollywood in the late-'30s and filmed in monochrome features one of Laurence Olivier's flair performances. He sports facial battle scars, a sling, a false nose, a leather eye-patch, flowing cape, tricorn hat, glittering medals and stars and sun-bleached lemon-blond hair pulled into a pony-tail tied with a thick velvet ribbon. His organic, stoical, humanistic 18th-Century character exposition is very English and very human reflecting Nelson - a classical figure from the Age of Enlightenment. The Battle of Trafalgar is full-blooded and is very well realised. His Nelson is a stablemate to his grandiloquent perforance as the Duke of Wellington in 1972's Lady Caroline Lamb in which he sports a Royal Blue silk sash, Regency Era wavy-chestnut hair and hooked false putty nose at ease imbibing a glass of sherry. Olivier seems to capture time and space like no other classical actor.


An interesting epic adventure film from the late-'60s
In 1968 -that most dizzying of hippie years (the film was shown in a London cinema in June 1971)- Italian-Jewish director Gillo Pontecorvo along with script writer Franco Solinas remarked that he wanted to produce -'a romantic adventure with the film of ideas'. The film begins in the year 1837 - Marlon Brando is Sir William Walker a British agent who foments revolution in the Portuguese Antilles to stop the Portuguese sugar monopoly in order to open up trade in Britain' s interests. The concentrated ideas and visual relationships are very interesting. By the late-'60s although he had been a teen idol in the 'Fifties along with Elvis Presley and James Dean, Brando's career was at a low ebb. Even so his aquiline chiselled features are displayed to astonishing effect here albeit in a really narcissistic way. His William Walker sports a beard, wavy lemon-blond hair, flowing apricot or celestial blue coloured scarves - a blond adventurer who evokes so many things:- Zeus, Netzer, Bowie... The scenes where he lights a cigarillo or imbibes a margarita at a cafe are very interesting. Perhaps only those other American stars Kirk Douglas in 20.000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954) and Charlton Heston in Antony & Cleopatra (1972) are on a par with Brando's flair. The costumes and props are also sumptuous - from the dense canary-yellow waistcoat of the liberal Teddy Sanchez (Renato Salvatori (The Light at the Edge of the World (1971)) in the hotel scene when Brando explains his objectives to the creole plantation owners to the very-bright voluptuous psychedelic colours. The scene on the beach with the black slaves celebrating their freedom features what look like honey-coloured gamma-rays recorded by the Italian cameraman Giuseppe Ruzzolini. The brawl in a London pub is an exciting bravura set-piece and the luxuriant verdant colours of Colombia and Morocco are well to the fore. I thought I spotted a cheviot goat in one scene relating to the sense of the post-modern in South America and it looked like the Italian crew had discovered a pre-Columbian temple in the jungle - an adventure within an adventure. NME's Chris Bohn said that this was in his words a 'great movie' back in 1983 when it was aired by the BBC. On the other hand I personally am in two minds relating to Brando's politics and contrived narcissism. According to US cinema scribe Tony Thomas the film was produced in Cartagena, Colombia, the mountains near Marrakech in Morocco, Cinnecitta Studios in Rome and Saint Malo in France between 1968 and 1969.

Lady Caroline Lamb

A sherry-trifle of a bio-pic from '71-72
A sherry-trifle of a bio-pic and period drama from '71-72, Lady Caroline Lamb captures the pneuma of 1972 - that greyest of hippie years so well. The early-'70s were pioneering years and 1972 was the year that saw the release of Andrey Tarkovsky's Solaris, Bill Douglas' My Ain Folk, Jack Couffer's The Darwin Adventure and Charlton Heston's Antony & Cleopatra. The scenes filmed in Italy at twilight at a palazzo and Roman amphitheatre are very evocative and have a sense of enchantment and stillness as do some of the interior shots featuring Lady Caroline and Richard Chamberlain's Lord Byron, while the score composed by English composer Richard Rodney Bennett is quite superb . Maudlin and melodramatic - Sarah Miles in appearance in some scenes prefigures the punk style of the mid-'70s - she sports a shock of grey/pinkish spiky hair. Jon Finch [Macbeth (1971) and Frenzy (1972) is good as the liberal Lord Melbourne while Sir Laurence Olivier's flair performance as the Duke of Wellington is splendid:- he sports a royal blue silk sash, Regency-Era wavy chestnut hair and a hooked putty false nose and is every inch the classical figure from the Age of Reason. Sir Ralph Richardson ( an actor born in 1902) as King George IV is both lyrical and amusing.

Antony and Cleopatra

An interesting epic period drama from '71-'72
This epic period drama produced in the early-'70s was Charlton Heston's third cinematic performance as Mark Anthony a propos of versions released earlier in his career in 1950 and 1970 - the latter starred that great English classical actor Sir John Gielgud as Caesar. Financed by Folio Films, the Rank Organisation and Izaro Films and filmed at Madrid's Moro Studios, Alcazaba and Aranjuez plus the deserts of Tabernas in Almeria between June and August 1971 and released in that greyest of hippy years -1972 - this is a very credible, economic production and is full of classical things. I was most impressed by the visual relationships - a vigorous gladiatorial combat scene, the alien pyramids and temples, lavish costumes, interesting props that include a huge marble head of Apollo, high-stepping Roman horses etc plus a lush romantic light classical score composed by John Scott. The abundant Spanish sun is astonishing and the camera records the zeitgeist and passage of time in the summer and autumn of 1971 so well. Heston's grandiloquent performance in some scenes can be compared to the flair of those other American stars - Marlon Brando in Burn! (1968-1970) and Kirk Douglas in the adventure film The Light at the Edge of the World (1971). In the aftermath of The Battle of Actium, Heston with his hawk-like profile seems strangely self-willed - sporting an auburn caesar cut and black cape he bestrides the Mediterranean surf like a Colossus. Antony's death scene - when he is stabbed by his servant features a strange Spanish nighttime setting - the subdued light is very evocative. The English actors - the young blond John Castle as Octavian and Eric Porter as Enobarbus are very good. Charlton Heston's 16-year-old son Fraser was involved on the set and in an interview from 2009 featured on the retail DVD he remarks that his father was inspired by the 'mystique' of Spain. Hildegard Neil who plays Cleopatra is married in real life to Yorkshireman Brian Blessed who played Augustus in the B.B.C. period drama series I Claudius (1976).

Histoire immortelle

Welles's subtle pastel-coloured meditation on fate from 1968
Filmed in Spain and France in 1966 and televised in France in May 1968 and on BBC 2 at Christmas 1982 (or '83?),The Immortal Story is Welles's second masterpiece from the mid-'60s after his Shakespeare/Holinshed adaptation - Chimes at Midnight (1965-1966). Set in the Portuguese colony of Macao around 1890, it basically emphasises the essential loneliness and fate of each human individual in a serene Tao-like style synthesised with Kabbalistic principles. Welles plays an ageing rich merchant - Mr Clay who arranges an encounter or game between Virginie (Jeanne Moreau) and a young blond sailor called Paul (Norman Eshley) to produce an heir for his million dollar fortune. According to Peter Cowie in The Cinema of Orson Welles ((1973) p. 197) - 'He knows he is doomed, but his gold is "proof against dissolution". Clay's clerk - a fascinating but passive Polish-Jewish émigré called Levinsky played by the remarkable young French actor Roger Coggio remarks that -'Now he may think that the pursuit of a story is even more interesting than the pursuit of money'. Although he remains a somewhat peripheral figure and dressed in a sort of Late-Victorian/mid-1960s Mod-style - he wears a homburg, grey slacks, upturned white 19th-Century collar and frock coat and sports coiffured oiled darkhair and trim mutton-chops. Levinsky is indispensable to Clay and 'he used his talents to fan the flames of greed and ambition in people round him...' (Cowie p.19). He keeps himself alive with the prophet Isaiah's hope for the future -'Strengthen ye the weak knees....For in the wilderness shall waters break out' written on a little parchment roll which refers to Welles's interest in Kabbalah perhaps? The music by Satie is very nice and the dense pastel colours conjured by Willy Kurant's camera evoke a metaphysical feel - the pastel colours reflect the bright colours of those dizzying psychedelic years '68 to '71. The Time Out review remarks that 'the use of colour, deep focus and shadow is superb'.

Paths of Glory

Brilliant fifties anti-war movie
Banned in France till 1975, Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957) is an unusually powerful and incisive cinematic discourse relating to the futility of war. In fact it would be almost unbearably grim without the performance of Douglas as Colonel Dax - the liberal defender of three innocent French soldiers accused of cowardice on contrived trumped-up charges by the over-ambitious and arrogant General Mireau (George Macready). Such social issues as class differences and military hypocrisy in the French High Command are emphasised. Douglas' Dax character gives the film its only light and warmth. In appearance he looks impressive - fair-haired and lantern-jawed, he sports his regiment number '701' on his collar and cuffs and wears a prototype wristwatch. Along with 20.000 Leagues under the Sea (1954), Ulisse (1954)and Light at the Edge of the World(1971) it is one of his most compelling performances although it lacks the Nietzschean undertones of the aforementioned adventure and sword and sandals films. Time Out describes Douglas' performance as being 'astonishingly successful' and refers to the very interesting 'diagrammatic tracking shots' relating to the battle scenes.

Ulzana's Raid

Bleak but quite brilliant Mexican/Arizonan set western from '72.
Ulzana's Raid was released in that most downbeat of hippie years - 1972 and is a western that captures the zeitgeist of the early-'70s so well. Bleak and lacking metaphysical colour but directed with flair by Aldrich the narrative involves a breakout from a wretched reservation by a group of Apache braves. A US cavalry brigade led by but wet-behind-the-ears Lieutenant Garnett DeBuinn (young blond Bruce Davison) and scouts MacIntosh (Burt Lancaster) and Ki-Ne-Tay (Mexican actor Jorge Luke) set out to track the Apaches and encounter the spectacular but bleak Arizonan-Mexican landscape. The Apaches are not depicted as noble savages and parallels with Vietnam are clear to see. London's Time Out Film Guide refer to this western as being: 'extraordinarily intelligent'. Some of the props are very interesting: for example the late 19th-Century framed military pictures in Major Cartwright's headquarters and a sort of welsh-dresser/pigeon-hole made out of gnarled mahogany in the background which suggests a kind of synthesis. What about the tome and blue and white Dutch ceramic saucer in Willy Rukeyser's hut and the pure white coffee cups and bronze-coloured coffee container in the Major's HQ? What superb topnotch American thespian flair shown by 58-year-old Burt Lancaster.

The Rockford Files

The best ever television private-detective series American or otherwise
The Rockford Files (1974-1980) was the best ever television private-detective series: American or otherwise and it captured the zeitgeist of LA in 1974. James Garner's acting is as effortlessly competent and charming as a well driven Rolls Royce- he is so rational and highly professional. Each episode had a zen-like feel and the very '70s urban aesthetics of LA, Malibu, Bel Air and Beverly Hills are marvellously conjured up. The theme tune by Mike Post is stylish and memorable and the unpredictable and sometimes weird plot-lines are highly entertaining and extremely well-written. It shows just how original and manifold '70s television could be.


A compelling adventure film from the early-'70s
This adventure film from 1971 is a highly credible cinematic adaptation. The pacing is economical but I was most impressed by some of the visual relationships and props. For example, the dark-brown hues in Captain Hoseason's ship's cabin. Also in one early scene at the curmudgeonly Uncle Ebeneezer's bleak House of Shaws when young David is introduced to Captain Hoseason and is subsequently shanghaied the morning sunlight shining on the door in the background gives the surface of the door a pure silvery effect which seems profoundly metaphysical. I admired the eighteenth-century globes and furnishings in the Lord Advocate's office. Indeed the Lord Advocate - played with flair by Trevor Howard, is very much every inch a figure from the Scottish Enlightenment. Michael Caine in one of his most committed performances plays the character of Jacobite soldier of fortune, Alan Breck Stuart: he sports green, blue and grey tartan with a silver brooch embossed with an amber gem and is armed with a cutlass, pistol and long dagger. The fight scene in the ship's cabin is a terrific bravura set-piece while the extraordinarily beautiful Scottish landscape is recorded so well by Paul Beeson's camera.


A flair performance by Kirk Douglas
A lyrical, mystical and beguiling adventure film from the early-'50s. Kirk Douglas looks the part as Ulisse, the intrepid, shrewd ancient Greek hero - American golden age talent reflecting Classical Greece's Golden Age and Douglas gives the audience more opportunities and shows more flair than any other American movie star bar Burt Lancaster in Ulzana's Raid. In appearance he is bearded, with curly fair hair and with fiery green-blue eyes. His role complements his other flair performances, vis a vis 20.000 Leagues under the Sea (1954), Paths of Glory (1957) and The Light at the Edge of the World (1971). Filmed and produced in Mediterranean locations in 1953 the classical scenes with the Cyclops and the Sirens are so powerful and sensual: the psychological depths, super-bright colours and metaphysical undercurrent are profound. Excerpts from this film are featured in Cinema Paradiso - Italian and Continental audiences really appreciated this film. Actor and Yorkshireman, Brian Glover -a man of Barnsley, remarked some years ago in London's The Independent how much he admired this film. In some ways Ulisse is a subtler depiction of the classical world than the alien, sentimental often televised Spartacus (1960).

The Light at the Edge of the World

Impressive adventure film from the early-' 70s
An interesting adventure film based on a Jules Verne story filmed in 1970 and financed by Kirk Douglas' Bryna Productions and banks and backers from Spain, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Off the bleak location of Cape Horn around 1865, three lighthouse keepers: a jaded ex-miner Will Denton (Kirk Douglas), Captain Moritz (Fernando Rey) and young Felipe (Massimo Ranieri) are confronted by wreckers led by pirate captain, Jonathan Kongre (Yul Brynner). After his companions are brutally murdered, Denton ekes out a passive existence in a cave till he resolves to fight back assisted by Montefiore (Renato Salvatore) a survivor from one of the ships lured to the rocks by the pirates. The desperate situation is complicated by another survivor, a young English woman, Arabella, who is used by Kongre to mimic Denton's former love, Emily Jane. Douglas and Brynner act with flair - Douglas gives another heroic Nietzschean performance vis a vis 20.000 Leagues under the Sea (1954) and Ulisse (1955). In appearance he looks like a Nineteenth-Century hippie adventurer - bearded and with straight lightbrown hair and fiery blue-green eyes. Brynner is a flamboyant counterpoint. Despite some squeamish scenes and illogical phases the extraordinary Spanish settings - the white-topped rising arches and surreal psychedelic colours plus a very romantic light popular classical Italian score by Piero Piccioni give this film a metaphysical feel.

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