Monday, September 24, 2007
Although he has had a relatively non-prolific career has a film director since his debut in the Mid Seventies, British born Richard Loncraine is one of modern cinema's secret weapons; a director capable of producing masterful films in any genre with a rare mix of style and class.
Loncraine was born in Gloucestershire England just after the war in 1946. After studying to be a sculptor at the Central School of the Arts he became interested in film and attended the Royal College of Art Film School, where he quickly showed himself as a talent to watch.
Loncraine's early career was spent mostly working for the BBC on commercials and television productions. 1974 would prove to be the turning point for the then 29 year old Loncraine when he co-scripted the children's' anthology PROFESSOR POPPER'S PROBLEM and directed the acclaimed short, RADIO WONDERFUL. His work on these and his previous BBC experience led him to his first feature film, 1975's FLAME. Scripted by Andrew Birkin and starring Tom Conti, FLAME was essentially a showcase for the band Slade. FLAME is a film I have long wanted to see as it sounds like a truly fascinating extravaganza, and it has gained a considerable cult following since its release.
FLAME underperformed slightly in 1975 but it received enough attention to garner Loncraine his greatest film, 1977's FULL CIRCLE. Nothing in Loncraine's past would have suggested that he would have been the perfect director for a modern day ghost story, but his direction of FULL CIRCLE is astonishing in its conviction and power. Loncraine seemed to bring out the best in everybody, including lead actress Mia Farrow and composer Colin Towns; both of whom would delivery career best work under Loncraine's direction.
Working closely with cinematographer Peter Hannan and editor Ron Wiseman, Loncraine and company made FULL CIRCLE into an unforgettable experience that would transform Peter Straub's already solid novel into something spectacularly spooky, compelling and resonate.
FULL CIRCLE garnered Loncraine the grand prize at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival and it should have cemented his reputation as one of the great British directors of the seventies, but distribution problems plagued the film from the get go and it would take nearly five years for the film to be seen outside of British and some European markets.
The delayed release and muted reception of FULL CIRCLE stalled what should have been one of the brightest directorial careers of the late seventies. Loncraine returned to British television for the next several years and finally came back to feature film making with 1982's THE MISSIONARY starring Trevor Howard and Maggie Smith.
Loncraine's real return though was with the fantastic BRIMSTONE AND TREACLE (1982), an intriguing and memorable cult film starring Sting and Denholm Elliot. As in FULL CIRCLE, Loncraine would provide the film with some seriously intelligent direction that made it one of the most memorable British films of the period. Loncraine would go on to win another Grand Prize award, this time at the prestigious Montreal World Film Festival.
Loncraine surprisingly dropped mostly out of the public eye for the rest of the next decade or so, delivering only one feature and some more TV work. He would storm back with vengeance in 1995 with his audacious take on Shakespeare's RICHARD THE THIRD. Loncraine's RICHARD is one of the great personal readings of one of Shakespeare's greatest works, and he would garner several awards for the triumphant work, including the BAFTA and a Silver Berlin Bear.
Loncraine would again return to television after the stunning RICHARD where he would stay until 2004 when he delivered the sweet and surprising WIMBLEDON. This lovely and winning little romantic comedy is one of the more underrated from the decade and features two incredibly charming performances from Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst, two of the most talented and charismatic young actors on the planet today. Shot actually on location at Wimbledon, Loncraine delivers a rare romantic comedy that is both intelligent and heartfelt. WIMBLEDON is a real jewel of a film that serves as a great reminder that Richard Loncraine is capable of just about anything he sets his camera on.
Loncraine followed WIMBLEDON with the rather disappointing FIREWALL which failed more due to the miscasting of Harrison Ford rather than his direction, which still maintained a real sense of style and suspense even when the script didn't.
Richard Loncraine in his early sixties no doubt has many more films to give and surprise us with. As a director, he is capable of the creepiest Gothic horror, the heaviest drama, and the most charming comedy imaginable. Loncraine is a really valuable asset to modern film. Here is hoping to many more great works in his future.
A great interview with Loncraine can be found here: