Friday, 27 July 2012

If...


Last night we screened Lindsay Anderson's classic If...
Our good friend Christy Fowlston wrote a piece for our program and heres what he had to say...




No film can be too personal.
The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments.
Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim.
An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude.

Or so said the first manifesto of the Free Cinema movement. Several years before the Royal Court’s ‘angry young men’ reshaped British drama forever, Lindsay Anderson was already busy challenging the cultural and social order, cutting his cinematic teeth with shoestring documentaries funded by the BFI. Struggling to get his films shown, Anderson joined forces with friends Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lorenza Mazzetti, the four of them deciding to show their short documentary films in a single programme at the National Film Theatre. Despite the fact that the group had made their films independently of one another, Anderson identified a shared, novel attitude to their filmmaking, and opportunistically concocted a ‘Free Cinema Manifesto’ for the occasion. Such was the press attention garnered by Anderson’s manifesto that not only did all the screenings sell out, but a further five Free Cinema programmes took place over the next three years (with notable contributions from Roman Polanski and Fran├žois Truffaut). With its evident contempt for mainstream British films, institutions and attitudes, and its respectful portrayal of ordinary people, Free Cinema, With Anderson as its spokesman, was the artistic melting pot from which the British New Wave was born.



What do you have?
Picking up where Free Cinema left off in 1959, The British New wave (BNW) consisted of perhaps no more than 9 major works, more than half of which were directed by the founders of Free Cinema (including Tony Richardson’s Look Back in Anger, A Taste of Honey, and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, and Karel Reisz’s Saturday Night Sunday Morning). The late 50s saw the emergence of a youth culture eager to reject the fustiness and hidebound attitudes of their parents and the prevalent culture. BNW films told the stories of characters and issues on the social margins of society that would previously have been left untold. Anderson’s own contribution, This Sporting Life (1963), was his first feature length film and arguably the final film in the BNW movement. In common with most of the BNW’s films, This Sporting Life was based on a novel with a screenplay adapted by the author, David Storey (from his novel of the same name). It tells the story of Richard Harris’ inimical, violent coal miner, manipulated on the rugby field and manipulator off it. It wouldn’t be until 1968 that Anderson made another full length film. But This Sporting Life’s themes of power and class would be central to his next, and greatest, film.






There's no such thing as a wrong war. Violence and revolution are the only pure acts.
Set in an elite and elitist public school, Anderson’s 1968 film, If… is certainly a departure from the BNW’s focus on working or lower middle class people. Malcolm McDowell takes the lead (in his first screen appearance) as the sixth form rebel Mick Travis. Arriving back at school at the beginning of term with a non-regulation moustache, a fellow pupil remarks "God, it's Guy Fawkes back again". It’s a line that anticipates the unexpected finale of a film that was made while the students were literally manning the barricades in protests in France.
If… is a searing allegory of British society where public school serves as a microcosm. The contempt for British mores and institutions of Anderson’s earlier work is present, and so too are some more esoteric cinematic elements that Anderson had temporarily abandoned in This Sporting Life. Colour scenes are interspersed with monochrome, the day-to-day drudgery of school life is broken up with fantasy and surrealism. The repeated use of a Congolese mass as a musical motif hints at the escape to another world that Travis and his friends long for.
Many people (myself included) have looked for some sort of meaning in the unusual mixture of black and white, and colour film in If…, there was even a rumour at the time of the film’s release that the black and white scenes had been included because the production had run out of money and could not afford to process all the scenes in colour. In fact, they filmed the first chapel scene in black and white because, in tests, the natural light rendered the high speed colour film they were using grainy, and shifting colours coming through the stained glass window made colour-correction impossible. When Anderson checked the dailies he liked the way the monochrome ‘broke up the surface of the film’ and decided to insert more black and white scenes to disorientate the viewer.
Although a piece of its time If… still resonates. The young, charismatic, pseudo-liberal headmaster with his condescending understanding of Travis and his band of ‘hair rebels’ smacks of David Cameron (or any of the current shower of ‘caring’ Tories). And having served a brief sentence in the early nineties at a public school where some of the scenes in If… were shot, I can confirm that many of the prefects’ more unadmirable attitudes were still very much in evidence then. With the UK government’s Cabinet once again stuffed full of Eton’s spawn, and many of the grand old institutions in the City teetering, what better time to take a seditious look at Anderson’s anarchic fantasy?






Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Phantom




We were extremely honored that Chris Cooke agreed to provide us with a piece for our Phantom Of The Paradise program, its so good that we had to share it with you.
Chris is part of Mayhem who has been such an inspiration for us. 
Each Mayhem event feels very special and is an education in terror. They have curated some fantastic screenings in Nottingham and have that special talent of putting together some dream double bills. 
Nottingham are very lucky to have them. 

...and yes, our programs were Origami Swans.



PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE
Directed by Brian De Palma, 1974. Starring William Finley, Paul Williams, Jessica Harper and Gerrit Graham (as Beef).

He sold his soul... for Rock N' Roll.

His face destroyed in a vinyl record press, wronged composer Winslow Leach dons a mask and hides out behind the scenes at The Paradise Theatre, watching and waiting for the perfect time to take his revenge against evil record producer Swan. But as he methodically destroys one band after another he finds that his lovely muse, Phoenix, is starring in Swan's opus – using the music stolen from him... but if Leach wants success at any cost, then Swan wants nothing less than his soul.

The very definition of a cult movie, Phantom was a failure when released and built up a huge, loyal and loving fanbase that now sees the film rightly recognised as a mini-masterpiece, and if you've never seen it, you really can't afford to miss it now!

For more information visit The Swan Archives online at: http://www.swanarchives.org/

“Delirium...” Slant Magazine

“Highly inventive...” Time Out.

“Bizarre colors, vintage 70s-era rock and truly imaginative ideas... a thrill.” Combustible Celluloid.

“Outrageous... a visual triumph.” The Los Angeles Times.





PAUL WILLIAMS
Williams is probably best remembered for the brilliant score and songs to Bugsy Malone and his contributions to everything from The Muppets to Yo Gabba Gabba, but it's his work here that is well worth being reminded of.

His clever score allows him to pastiche a number of trends from rock to surf sounds, from folk to pop, all the while creating a cohesive opera of violence and mayhem. Here he creates whole bands, ranging from The Juicy Fruits, The Beach Bums and The Undeads... and of course wild solo-singer, Beef.

Phantom of the Paradise also allows him to demonstrate just what a great character actor he is in the role of the sinister Swan, creepy record producer and corrupter of all pure and innocent – but we shouldn't forget that he's also brilliant as Virgil, the scientist orangutan, in Battle for the Planet of the Apes and is great in Smokey and the Bandit, of course.

The film and William's music has had a more recent influence informing avowed fans Sebastian Tellier and Daft Punk.





WILLIAM FINLEY
Finley died earlier this year, and this screening of Phantom is a great way to celebrate a career of collaborations with his life long friend, Phantom director Brian De Palma.

The pair met at university and worked together over a series of films seeing Finley turn in increasingly bizarre and quirky performances, from a deranged doctor in love with Siamese twins in Sisters, a sweaty psychic in The Fury and a demented private dick in The Black Dahlia, De Palma's adaptation of the James Ellroy novel.

Finley also worked with Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper on Funhouse as a very drunk fairground magician as well as playing Marilyn Burns' unhinged husband in Eaten Alive. But perhaps his most must-see cult performance outside of Phantom is as yet another loopy loser in the Chuck Norris starring martial-arts-slasher pic Silent Rage.

"RIP: Winslow Leach a.k.a. William Finley one of my favorite characters in one of my favorite movies." Bret Easton Ellis

JESSICA HARPER
Harper is given full rein to her incredible vocal talents here in Phantom and still performs the brilliant soundtrack today as the film has inspired convention screenings and retrospectives in the USA.

Her obvious interest in music is also evident in her performance as young dance student Suzy Banyon in Dario Argento's masterpiece Suspiria, the Hollywood remake of Pennies from Heaven  as well as the little remembered but very good Shock Treatment, a sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, playing Janet herself!




GERRIT GRAHAM
Actor, comedian (and here singer), multi-talented character actor excels as the ridiculous and doomed Beef. His affection for the genre is evident in films ranging from Demon Seed to TerrorVision, the hilarious Chopping Mall, the cult sequel Chud 2: Bud The Chud and terrible post-Vietnam vigilante thriller The Annihilators.

His skills also extend to penning screenplays for Disney's The Little Mermaid and Oliver & Company and there aren't that many flamboyantly condemned characters called Beef who can lay claim to that.

BRIAN DE PALMA
Phantom is a genuine, quintessential cult classic from writer-director Brian De Palma and one that nearly lost him his fans.

Made before he thrilled everyone with now horror classics Carrie and Dressed To Kill and his move into big budget success with films like Scarface and The Untouchables, this bizarre rock-opera fusion of The Phantom of the Opera with the legend of Faust came after a series of explosive new wave features like Hi Mom! (starring then newcomer Robert De Niro) that marked De Palma out as a ground-breaking, left-field avant-garde film-maker.

But the real gripe of his radical fans was the score by Paul Williams. Everyone had expected a new film from their feted director to feature the music of a radical or cool underground band – not the composer of tracks for The Carpenters and Helen Reddy!

However on seeing the completed film they knew they needn't have worried – De Palma had fashioned a stunningly independent attack on the music industry itself, lampooning the scene as pompous and self important, interested only in money and not art.

The film is also a template for many of the techniques De Palma was developing for suspense – from split screens to sustained set-pieces De Palma's love of 'pure cinema' is at here at it's most evident. Plus of course, Phantom is genuinely enjoyable, thrilling and fun.

TRIVIA FACT FANS –
Sissy Spacek, star of Carrie, was a set-dresser on this film!
The film was nominated for Best Music Oscar!