The Friday Film – Fellini’s Satyricon

Fellini-Satyricon

This is not a historical picture, a Cecil B. DeMille picture. It is not even a Fellini picture, in the sense of La Strada, or Nights of Cabiria, or even La Dolce VitaJoanna Paul

Fellini's Satyricon - Soundtrack by Nino Rota

Fellini’s Satyricon – Soundtrack by Nino Rota

Having only discovered Fellini over the past year or so, last night I watched Satyricon for the first time. It’s one of those films that you could pause at any moment and there you have a beautiful painting. If anyone is suffering from artist or writer’s block, I’m pretty sure that a viewing of Satyricon will sort you out!

Viewing this film is certainly more akin to watching a surreal fantasy or science fiction adventure than it is to settling down for a historical tale. The film mostly revolves around a poet, and Ascyltus and Encolpius, sometimes friends, often rivals competing for the affections of a young slave boy.

As viewers, we follow them on their adventures. In a fashion that echoes the even more wonderful director, Jan Svankmajer, Fellini treats us to a sickening feast scene, as we see the sights and are subjected to the sounds of gluttonous eating.

However, Fellini does withhold on showing a scene of cannibalism towards the end of the film, instead leaving us content with watching the faces of the feasters. Satyricon is bathed in an unusual and evocative soundtrack by Nino Rota.

Cruelty runs throughout the film. Encolpius watches a scene from a play in which a man’s hand is actually cut off to gratify the jaded Roman spectators. In another sequence a wealthy man Encolpius has married is decapitated. Nostalgia Central

I began my Fellini adventures in a foolish way, beginning with Casanova, a film so perfect that every Fellini masterpiece that I’ve seen since just can’t quite touch that height – but there’s hope because I have many more to watch, including 8 1/2.

Encolpius 
Martin Potter
Ascyltus
Hiram Keller
Giton
Max Born

Director
Fredrico Fellini

 

 

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The Friday Film – The Birds

Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). Photo: Everett Collection/Rex features

Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). Photo: Everett Collection/Rex features

I’m pretty late to the party, but last night I finally got round to watching The Birds, the Hitchcock film based on Daphne du Maurier’s story of the same name (first published in The Apple Tree).

It stars Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren, both intriguing but slightly unlikable, at least in these roles anyway. The film begins with sweet little lovebirds and a wealthy woman with stalker-like behaviour (Hedren) and ends with murderous crows and seabirds.

The women of the film are intriguing and at times it can be hard to judge what the bird-loving Hitchcock or Hunter were getting at with these characters. Perhaps that’s why they made Taylor’s character so bland. I must admit, it was no Vertigo, but I still really enjoyed The Birds.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Edited by George Tomasini
Production
company
Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • March 28, 1963
Budget $3.3 million
Box office $11.4 million

Running time: 119 minutes.

Birds invade the Brenner house

Birds invade the Brenner house

It is one of the most disturbing sequences in cinematic history: a woman tiptoes through a house until – in three staccato shots – she discovers the bloody corpse of its occupant on the bedroom floor, his eye sockets two black holes dripping with gore. Telegraph

In this film, the female lead, Melanie Daniels is standing outside and you can see the playground behind her gradually filling up with birds.  This could be perhaps my favorite scene in movie history.  This scene is the best example of montage or Mise En Scene I could think of.  Hitchcock was extremely impressive in his dramatic techniques.  It helped to build the tension which also made this film horror and suspense. Lighting the Birds

Is The Birds about feminism? I don’t know, and I’m less convinced of this now than I was a decade ago. The Imaginative Conservative

Hitchcock initially wanted his 1950s leading lady Grace Kelly for the role of Melanie Daniels, but after she married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956, she retired from acting and declined all offers to return to Hollywood. He’d also sought Anne Bancroft for the role, but even with his expansive budget, he couldn’t afford her. Others on his wish list included starlets Sandra Dee, Carol Lynley, Yvette Mimieux, and Pamela Tiffin… He discovered his eventual leading lady, Hedren, a model with no acting experience, when he spotted her in a TV commercial for a diet drink during NBC’s “Today” show… The director initially wanted Joseph Stefano, his “Psycho” screenwriter, to return for “The Birds,” but Stefano wasn’t interested in the story. Movie Fone

The Birds

The Birds

Hunter began working on the screenplay in September 1961. He and Hitchcock developed the story, suggesting foundations such as the townspeople having a guilty secret to hide, and the birds an instrument of punishment. He suggested that the film begin using some elements borrowed from the screwball comedy genre then have it evolve into “stark terror”. This appealed to Hitchcock, according to the writer, because it conformed to his love of suspense: the title and the publicity would have already informed the audience that birds attack, but they do not know when. The initial humor followed by horror would turn the suspense into shock… Hitchcock at later stages consulted with his friends Hume Cronyn (whose wife Jessica Tandy was playing Lydia) and V.S. Pritchett, who both offered lengthy reflections on the work… The director commissioned Sala and Remi Gassmann to design an electronic soundtrack. They are credited with “electronic sound production and composition”, and Hitchcock’s previous musical collaborator Bernard Herrmann is credited as “sound consultant”… Source music includes the first of Claude Debussy‘s Deux arabesques, which Tippi Hedren’s character plays on piano, and “Risseldy Rosseldy”, an Americanized version of the Scottish folk songWee Cooper O’Fife“, which is sung by the schoolchildren. Good old Wikipedia

The Friday Film – Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar!

Last night I watched the Coen brothers’ comedy Hail, Caesar! (2016). Starring George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton and many more fantastic faces, Hail, Caesar! presents a day in the life of a Hollywood studio fixer in the 1950s. I haven’t heard many good words about it, but I thought it was fantastic!

Hollywood, the ’50s. Capitol Pictures is making prestige picture Hail, Caesar, A Tale Of Christ’s Life when its star (Clooney) disappears. Studio fixer Eddie Mannix (Brolin) has to bring him back, while also dealing with other daily issues. Empire

Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar!

The Friday Film – Death Proof

So, last night I re-watched my favourite Tarantino film: Death Proof. Whenever I discuss his films with other people, they always say that this is their least favourite. Or worse, they just haven’t seen it!

I must admit, I still haven’t seen Jackie Brown (I don’t know why), so it’s quite possible that Death Proof is my second favourite and I just don’t know it yet. It’s the most stylish of Tarantino’s films and Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike makes the most fantastic love-to-hate character.

Tarantino’s worst film is still an entertaining one. In this flick, Kurt Russell plays a stuntman who kills woman using his car. Alternative Nation

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

A meeting of the minds at the bench to determine the best way to handle the panty-issue (Photo credit: medialifecrisis.com )

A meeting of the minds at the bench to decide the best way to handle the panty-issue (Photo credit: medialifecrisis.com )

DIRECTED BY
Otto Preminger

1905-1986

Otto Preminger was an American immigrant from Vienna.

As a lawyer, I’ve had to learn that people aren’t just good or just bad. People are many things.

—PAUL BIEGLER

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Genre: Courtroom Drama

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Teaser ads

I watched Anatomy of a Murder, starring the amazing James Stewart and George C. Scott, for the first time last night. Shot entirely on location, it’s a visually stunning film as well as a captivating story. It was refreshing to see a character such as Laura portrayed the way she was, even though the film is 57 years old.

I also enjoyed the fact that all characters involved were intelligent, rather than relying on the crime-drama cliché of clever vs stupid. Presumably, the authentic feel of the characters can be put down to the book being based on a true story. I know it’s a film that I’ll enjoy just as much, if not more, on the second viewing.

24 sheet movie poster, alternate version

24 sheet movie poster, alternate version

Marketing images and the title sequences for the film were created by the supremely talented Saul Bass. It’s hard to believe that these images aren’t from a contemporary, cool, indie film. It reminds me of the opening sequence of Mad Men.

The opening title sequence of this 1959 crime drama is a classic piece of graphic design — giving the movie a strong, timeless identity that still inspires filmmakers to this day, says Designer Julien Vallée… Back at the beginning of silent film, movie titles were only of interest to producers because of the legal and copyright information they contained about the film being shown. They eventually came to be used to present cast and crew member information as well. And it was the role of a lettering artist to design these slates.  Art of the Title

One of the great courtroom dramas ever captured on film. The subject matter is not as risqué as it was in 1959, however, the story is still powerful and unflinching. Preminger pulls no punches in this drama about rape, murder and betrayal. The performances by Stewart, Scott and Remick are riveting… After questioning Lt. Manion (Gazzara), a hotheaded soldier, and his beautiful, young, flirtatious wife Laura (Remick), Paul is unsure what to believe about the case. Laura says that after visiting a town bar, she was raped by the bar owner, Barney Quill, as he drove her home. Her husband in a fit of “insanity” went down to the bar and shot Barney six times. Crazy for Cinema

Anatomy of a Murder

Anatomy of a Murder

Anatomy of a Murder examines the American judicial system almost scientifically. Like a scientist, Preminger chooses a specific case to observe to understand the strengths and flaws of American justice. The Artifice

"The prosecution would like to separate the motive from the act. Well, that's like trying to take the core from an apple without breaking the skin."

“The prosecution would like to separate the motive from the act. Well, that’s like trying to take the core from an apple without breaking the skin.”

The score avoids cultural stereotypes which previously characterized jazz scores and “rejected a strict adherence to visuals in ways that presaged the New Wave cinema of the ’60s.”… The soundtrack, containing 13 tracks, was released on May 29, 1959. Discogs

I can’t imagine the discussion that took place to ultimately decide to have Duke Ellington write the score for the film, but I’m glad it did. The fun, stylish and upbeat music compliments the range of witty and individual characters perfectly.

The score spans the moods put forward by the film but holds its own as well, with often surprising choices in tempo and rhythm. I had of course heard of Ellington before but this was probably my biggest exposure to his work and I’m determined to delve further. He was one of the first jazz musicians to have a best-selling LP. At the time of the film’s release, Ellington was enjoying an unexpected resurgence in popularity since his original peak in the 30s and 40s.

The film, based on the novel of the same name, details the events of a real 1952 murder trial in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The novel was written by the trial’s defense attorney, John D. Voelker, but published under the pen name John Traver… Preminger’s commitment to authenticity is felt in every frame of the film… Few know that Otto Preminger was just as big as Alfred Hitchcock in the 1950s. – Obiter Dicta

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Newspaper ad

The Friday Film – Dress to Kill

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Ok, so it’s not a film as such but this week’s Friday Film is Eddie Izzard’s show Dress to Kill. I’ve been watching (and re-watching) Eddie’s shows since I was a teenager and this is definitely one of his best!

I always feel like I learn stuff from his shows… just little pointless things like snippets of French or an obscure piece of history. For example, he talks about how the USSR lost approximately 50 times more people during World War 2 than America or Britain did… Mr Edwards (my history teacher at school) never told me this. If you enjoy watching part 1 of the show (above), you can see the rest of it over at Daily Motion too.

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