Thursday, July 31, 2008

Friday the 13th Remake: First Official Posters



Most of you have probably seen these already as the Internet has been flooded with them but, just in case you haven't, here are the first official teaser posters for the upcoming remake of Friday the 13th. I must admit that even though I hated the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a passion, and it is indeed the same team handling the new Friday, I know I'll be in the theater opening day for this. Regardless of how the film comes out, I quite like these minimal but very effective designs for the posters.
It's a bit odd seeing these, even though I have known for quite awhile it was coming, as the original series made up such a big part of my childhood and teenage years. Perhaps the remake will at least cause Paramount to revisit the original series on DVD again, although I have learned to not hold my breath for quality uncut releases of the films...but oh what I would not give for the uncensored version of Steve Miner's Part 2.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fire Will Walk With It

X-files
At the end of August of 1992 I had one of the most memorable film experiences of my life, and it took place in a completely vacant and I must admit very lonely movie theater in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It was actually audience wise the most desolate opening night I have ever attended, and the film was none other than David Lynch’s masterful Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. I still remember the isolated awe I felt in that deserted theater that night and the absolute confusion as to why no one else was there to feel it with me.
Lynch’s controversial big screen prequel to his celebrated television series is now rightly viewed by many as one of his major works…a disturbing and powerful masterpiece that is among the most memorable and distinctive films of the nineties. Of course this wasn’t the case in 1992 as Fire Walk with Me was subjected to the most pulverizing critical and popular reception David Lynch had ever received, it even made the reception Dune got look positively glowing. It was viewed by many as the last unnecessary chapter of a series that had run its course, and was considered beyond passé before it briefly appeared and vanished in that late summer of 92.
Of course time has shown Twin Peaks to be one of the great television series and it’s arguably more beloved now than it was when it was originally on the air. Anyone who was around when it originally aired can attest to the baffled and angry reaction many people had to the series second season, a season which is now rightfully viewed as one of the most important in television history.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that first viewing of Fire Walk with Me lately…specifically that empty feeling I had for a month or so after, as I watched people who gleefully celebrated the end of something I had held so dear. It was a frustrating thing because I couldn’t even argue for the film because so few had bothered to see it…and I must admit that it was as depressing as hell.
X-Files 2
I’ve had that same exact feeling again recently due to the reception that The X-Files: I Want To Belive has received. Now I’m not arguing that Carter’s new film is in the same league as Lynch’s…it isn’t and it doesn’t try to be, but the two do share some remarkable characteristics though that are more than worth noting.

They are both challenging and extremely personal works from filmmakers attempting to continue two of their most iconic works, both of which coincidentally started out life as small screen productions. They are also two works not afraid to deliver exactly what WASN’T wanted by many of show’s core fans. Imagine Fire Walk With Me as the quirky dark comedy or I Want to Believe as the big budget monster movie many fans wanted but neither Lynch nor Carter were interested in delivering what was expected, even if a possible career set-back was a real possibility.
The films were also both treated with disdain by the studio’s obvious non-belief in them. If you think I Want to Believe has been handled badly, go back and check on the non-campaign for Fire Walk with Me. The fact that I even managed to catch it in a theater is nothing short of miraculous. There is also the feeling with both that many people who weren’t fans of the series’ were gunning for them, and nothing Lynch or Carter could have delivered would have been good enough.

Finally, the main thing that perhaps connects Fire Walk with Me and I Want to Believe is that they were delivered to a time period that simply didn’t want them. The X-Files is as irrelevant to as many people in 2008 as Twin Peaks was back in 1992 and it took guts for Lynch and Carter to make their respective films in the first place. Time has thankfully caught up with Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me now, so much so that it might be hard for a lot of younger fans to imagine there was ever a time when people thought Lynch’s show was anything less than a classic, but trust me that time did occur.

I’ve been extremely depressed by the reaction granted to I Want to Believe and especially by a lot of people’s callous dismissal of The X-Files in general, a series that meant a lot of things to a lot of different people and had a huge impact on our popular culture in general. I can only harbor the hope that the film and series will one day find its audience again much like Lynch’s show and film did…in fact I am counting on it. 2008 might not be a good year for The X-Files popularity wise, but I am willing to wager money that ten or fifteen years from now many of its most vocal opponents will be lining up to and singing its praises.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and The X-Files: I Want To Believe are two vastly different works, but they are both extremely personal and uncompromising films made by two very genuine filmmakers who clearly had something meaningful they wanted to say. To paraphrase something I once read on Lou Reed’s Berlin, these simply aren’t works made for their time but are more importantly works for all time…so perhaps I shouldn’t be depressed after all.

My Dream New Beverly Cinema Film Festival (The Twelve Movies Meme)

Femme Fatale
Ibetolis at the terrific Film for the Soul blog has tagged me with a twelve movies meme and I am more than happy to participate. For those who are unaware, this meme was started by Piper at Lazy Eye Theater and its concept is basically creating your own ideal week-long film festival for the New Beverly Cinema.

Here are the rules:
1) Choose 12 Films to be featured. They could be random selections or part of a greater theme. Whatever you want.

2) Explain why you chose the films.

3) Link back to Lazy Eye Theatre so I can have hundreds of links and I can take those links and spread them all out on the bed and then roll around in them.

4) The people selected then have to turn around and select 5 more people.

Here are my selections. I will of course change my mind on some of these immediately after posting but such is the way it goes with these sorts of lists….

Monday:

My week will kick off with a director’s night honoring the late Gordon Parks Jr. with showings of his genre busting western Thomasine and Bushrod (1974) starring Max Julien and Vonetta McGee along with his moving final feature Aaron Loves Angela (1975).

Tuesday:


My second night will feature probably my favorite double feature of Peter Weir’s hypnotic Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and Sofia Coppola’s masterful debut The Virgin Suicides (1999).

Wednesday:

To kick off those inevitable mid-week blues let’s have a showing of Julia St. Vincent’s strange but engrossing documentary on John Holmes, Exhausted (1981), followed by a screening of the film it helped inspire, Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic Boogie Nights (1997).

Thursday:


Another one of my favorite double features is up for grabs this night with Mario Bava's audacious and chilling final feature Shock (1977) with Daria Nicolodi followed by Richard Loncraine’s stunning and woefully undervalued Full Circle (1977) starring Mia Farrow.

Friday:


Another director’s night follows with a double does of Walerian Borowczyk featuring La Marge(1976) with Sylvia Kristel and Joe Dallensandro and his ferocious masterpiece Dr Jekyll and his Women (1981) with Marina Pierro and Udo Kier.

Saturday:

Because it’s always good to close with a little confrontation, my final night features two of my favorite films of the decade, from two of my favorite directors, that I feel have been unjustly maligned by both the critics and public. I offer for my closing night, Dario Argento’s controversial and audience dividing Sleepless (2001) and then close the festival with Brian De Palma’s jaw dropping return to his roots, Femme Fatale (2002).

Wish I could have found room for a hundred others but twelve was the limit.

I’m tagging these following fellow bloggers:

1. Steve Langton at The Last Picture Show.
2. Brandon Colvin or James Hansen at Out 1.
3. Mr. Peel at Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liquer.
4. Joe Valdez at This Distracted Globe.
5. Keith at Coolness is Timeless.

My apologies if any of these fine bloggers have already been tagged in this and I only ask that they participate if they care to.

Beineix's The Moon in the Gutter Coming to Berkeley

Nastassja Kinski, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Moon in the Gutter
A kind reader has informed me that the Berkley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will be hosting a rare screening of Jean-Jacques Beineix's The Moon in the Gutter as part of a David Goodis retrospective on Saturday, August 23rd. The screening will be hosted by noir aficionado and former film programmer for the Roxie Cinema, Elliot Lavine, and information on this welcome event can be found here.
I'm thrilled to see that the film is not only being screened but is also closing the festival, which also includes the terrific Bogart and Bacall film Dark Passage, Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player and half a dozen others. I wish I had the means to get to the screening but even though I can't I thought some interested readers here might...and if anyone does a full report would be most appreciated! Who knows, with Nastassja Kinski recently making a surprising appearance at The New Beverly Cinema's screening of Exposed, perhaps she might revisit this one as well.

Adventures In Modern French Music: elodieO (Stubborn)

elodie
One of the most intriguing debut albums of the year is courtesy of Parisian born elodieO, a talented up and coming artist formerly of the terrific and acclaimed band Elm.
The album, entitled Stubborn, streets in America in mid August and it’s an interesting mixture of Nicoesque vocals (Nico is not surprisingly among elodieO’s biggest influences), electronica, and trip hop with hints of sixties Samba thrown in for good measure.
Made up of eleven tracks almost entirely written and produced by elodieO herself (with some help from The Brazilian Girls and a talented band of studio musicians who give what could have been an overtly electronic album a nice acoustic and organic feel), Stubborn is quite a striking work.
Making the album an even more well rounded affair are elodieO’s choices of cover versions. Nestled alongside her own songs are the terrific “L’Attente”, a lovely track taken from a Rilke poem, a strong cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “l’eau a la bouche” and a moving mostly spoken version of The Cure’s “Home”.
Among elodieO’s own songs, highlights include the hypnotic opener, “La Mer”, the infectious single “Milk and Honey” (co-written by Yuriy Gavrilenko) and the mesmerizing “Unexpected So”, a track that recalls some of Bjork’s finest early work.
Stubborn continues Elm’s streak of marking elodieO as one of the more striking experimental French artists on the scene and it would fit nicely on a shelf with Camille’s Le Fil or Emilie Simon’s The Flower Book.
The album, courtesy of New York’s Mulatta Records, makes its American debut on August 19th. More information on elodieO can be found at her MySpace or her official page which is currently being updated. The original old official page can also be viewed here and contains quite a bit of information about this very promising young artist.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Blaxploitation Operation: Hammer (1972)

Hammer 1
Some films survive just based on the strength of the personalities starring in them. Take 1972’s Hammer for instance, a film that is flawed in nearly every aspect of its production from the script to the direction and yet it remains immensely watchable, thanks to the aura of its stars Fred Williamson and Vonetta McGee. Hammer is not a good film, hell it’s not even a particularly good exploitation film, but every time Williamson and McGee are on screen all of its faults and flaws just fall away.
Hammer 12
The Al Adamson produced Hammer came out in the late summer of 72 and it is mostly remembered as one of the film’s that gave the mighty Fred Williamson one of his first starring roles. Directed with very little finesse by Bruce D. Clark, a filmmaker with only one other credit to his name after this (1981’s Galaxy of Terror) and featuring a good if very spare score by legendary Philadelphia soul man Solomon Burke, Hammer tells the rather tired and routine story of a struggling boxer under the thumb of a corrupt and savagely unfair system.
Hammer 9
Producer Adamson is of course best known as the director of such horror exploitation titles such as Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971) and Blood of Ghastly Horror (1972) but he didn’t limit himself to any one genre and he tried his hand at Blaxploitation several times, with Hammer being the first. He would later go onto produce and direct such titles as Black Heat (1976), Black Samurai (1977) and perhaps most memorably the infamous Nurse Sherri (1978). I’ve often wondered how involved Adamson was with Hammer’s production and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had his hand in some of its direction although I can’t say for sure.
Hammer 7
With a killer cast surrounding Williamson and McGee, including the awesome William Smith (one of the cinema’s great bad guys), Bernie Hamilton, Mel Smith and D’Urville Martin, and some surprisingly stylish nice photography from first time cinematographer Robert Steadman, the biggest problem that plagues Hammer is its by the number script by Charles Johnson. Johnson, who would later write the much stronger Blaxploitation productions Slaughter’s Big Rip Off and That Man Bolt (both 1973), was also making his debut with Hammer and there is nothing to separate the film from any other exploitable product of the early seventies with the exceptions of Williamson and McGee, but trust me brother they are two potent exceptions.
Hammer 11
I’ve praised McGee here before for her performance in Gordon Parks Jr’s stunning Thomasine and Bushrod and she is impressive here as well. One of the seventies most stunning looking women, McGee radiates a real intelligence and more than holds her own with the imposing Williamson. The two are quite a team and Hammer really comes alive in their scenes together. A smarter crew would have abandoned Johnson’s predictable script and just made a complete love story for Williamson and McGee.
Hammer 10
Williamson is incredible in the film. Cool, unbelievably handsome and projecting the kind of casual but ferocious charisma most actors can’t even dream of, Williamson is unforgettable in Hammer and he’s great even though the material isn’t. Williamson is also a good actor and, even in this early role, that is obvious even though both he and McGee are so much better than the material they are given here.
Hammer 8
I don’t mean to be too hard on Hammer as it is an entertaining picture (with some fairly striking boxing sequences and one solid chase sequence) but it ultimately isn’t among the more memorable productions of the seventies most distinctive and prolific genre.
Hammer 5
MGM’s DVD is a full-frame disappointment that makes the film seem even less than it is, with boom mike shadows creeping in constantly due to the inaccurate framing. The print itself is nice and it’s a shame MGM made the odd decision to not release this widescreen as most of their Soul Cinema series features at least that courtesy. A trailer is the only extra on hand and the reasonably priced disc is fairly easy to find as it is still in print.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Schatzberg's Scarecrow: Seven Stories, Seven Shots

Part of my Scarecrow tribute week at Harry Moseby Confidential.
Scarecrow 1
Bronx born director Jerry Schatzberg came to fame in the sixties as a photographer whose work graced the pages of Vogue, Esquire and many other of the period’s most respected and famed publications. He also found time to photograph some of the decade’s greatest album covers including the legendary Blonde on Blonde sleeve for Bob Dylan.
In the late sixties he began dating up and coming Hollywood legend Faye Dunaway and it would indeed be the Bonnie and Clyde star who would be the leading lady of Schatzberg’s first film, 1970’s Puzzle of a Downfall Child. The film would generate quite a bit of controversy and received a vastly mixed critical reaction when it was released, although many agreed that Schatzberg was a talent to watch.
Schatzberg would follow up Puzzle of a Downfall Child with the acclaimed junkie drama Panic in Needle Park, a film which starred a young actor named Al Pacino. The harrowing film would lead to Scarecrow, a picture that would see the director and the future Oscar winning actor collaborating for the second and final time.
Schatzberg has never received the credit he has deserved as being one of the key American directors of the early seventies. Scarecrow remains arguably the greatest achievement of an often overlooked career behind the camera.
Scarecrow 2
Schatzberg’s film would mark the first screen credit for award winning and revered playwright Garry Michael White. Pacino would call White’s original script as the best he had ever read and Scarecrow does indeed stand as one of the most challenging and moving scripts of the seventies, a poignant work that would work as an entirely personal project while securing itself as an insightful look at an America that was becoming more and more distrustful of authority. Is there a more knowing and chilling acknowledgement of what was happening to America in the midst of Vietnam and Watergate than when Hackman’s Max says towards the end of the film, “Who Can I trust now”?
Scarecrow 3
Gene Hackman has called Scarecrow the favorite of all of the films he worked on in his career, impressive considering the number of classics that have appeared among the 100 or so titles he has starred in. Hackman had just won the Oscar for William Friedkin’s searing The French Connection when he shot Scarecrow, and his performance as Max for Schatzberg is the equal of his work as the famed Popeye Doyle that had won him so much acclaim. Incredibly neither Hackman nor Pacino were nominated for Oscars for Scarecrow.
Scarecrow 4
The film would become a sensation in Europe when it was initially released in 1973 and it won the coveted Golden Palm at that year’s Cannes Festival. Schatzberg and his film would also win several other top European prizes, a fact that makes the initial relative failure of the film in America all the more surprising. The film would open to poor box office and mixed reviews in the Spring of 1973 causing a disillusioned Hackman to announce he would only work on commercial projects afterwards, a promise thankfully he didn’t keep. It would take years for the film to really find its audience in America, even though it is still not held perhaps in the esteem that it should be.
Scarecrow 5
There was some reported tension between Hackman and Pacino on the set as the two had vastly different ways of approaching the material. The two would have the up most respect for each other though and have spoken highly of the experience since. Hackman would recall on Larry King that he loved and admired Pacino, a factor that went into him naming Scarecrow as his favorite film. Scarecrow marks the only time these two giants would work together.
Scarecrow 6
Behind the scenes players included legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, and his work combined with Scatzbergs marks Scarecrow as a photography lover’s dream and one of the most striking looking features of the seventies. The film’s intriguing editing which melds some surprising jump cuts into Schatzberg’s celebrated long takes is courtesy of none other than Evan A. Lottman, the man who would cut The Exorcist in the same year as Scarecrow. The film’s off kilter but effective score is credited to Fred Myrow, an interesting composer who would later provide the very effective music for the influential shocker Phantasm in 1979.
Scarecrow 7
Scarecrow came out just a month before I was born in 1973. I first saw it when I was around 15 courtesy of a censored TV print and I immediately fell in love with it. I consider it one of the key American films of the seventies and more than a dozen viewings of it over the years have only increased my admiration and love for the film.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The X-Files: I Want To Believe (An Ambitious and Personal Final Chapter)

***Some Minor Spoilers Follow***

Chris Carter’s The X-Files: I Want to Believe is one of the most personal American films of the decade; a flawed but ambitious work that is surprisingly poignant and haunting in several unexpected ways. It is also a film that dares to not be what many long time fans of the show will want or expect. I Want to Believe is clearly the film Chris Carter wanted to make, a cold and somber work that bravely risks alienating fans of the show who were wanting another fun creature filled ride into the unknown.
Coming over five years after the series finale of The X-Files, I Want to Believe is remarkably chilly production that finds its iconic lead characters Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in an iced over snowy winter investigating the disappearance of a missing FBI agent. Carter’s film trades in the show’s celebrated paranormal aspects for a subtle and very human mystery centering on ideas of stem cell research and black-market organ donations. The film isn’t entirely missing elements of the supernatural as there is a visionary psychic helping on the case, but Carter is more interested here in the idea of faith and the nature of science’s place in spiritual issues rather than things that just go bump in the night.

Considering the film is a relatively low budget affair, I Want to Believe is an exceptionally striking looking production thanks to cinematographer Bill Roe, a man who shot dozens upon dozens of the original show throughout the later seasons. The snow and ice covered plains are shot beautifully by Roe and Carter handles filming the landscapes equally well, bringing an intelligent sense of how to fill his often wide-open frames in nearly every shot of the film. Direction wise, I Want To Believe is an obviously well-thought and lovingly compiled film and visually it is nothing short of exceptional. The legendary main theme by Mark Snow is also used to great effect for the most part in the film and his new score as whole works exceedingly well. Kudos to both Carter and Snow though for knowing when to supply the film with just the right amount of silence though, a smart move that allows the score to become even more effective than perhaps it would have been.

Cast wise, Duchovny and Anderson both shine in the roles they both made so famous. Duchovny is especially moving in essaying the transition from the bearded and frozen over Mulder at the beginning of the film to the rejuvenated and believing figure at the end. It’s probably the swan song to one of the great characters of the past couple of decades and Duchovny gives a beautifully wearied and poetic performance that ranks along with the best work he has ever done. The always reliable Anderson is just as good, especially in a moving scene between her and the fallen priest that is as chilling as it is profound.

New to Carter’s world are an excellent Amanda Peet as the younger FBI agent Whitney who calls Mulder back to the bureau and a disappointingly one-dimensional Xzibit as her partner, who is one of the film’s weakest links. Peet and Duchovny share a couple of extremely effective scenes and she delivers her most confident and assured work since her undervalued turn in Igby Goes Down several years back. The best co-starring performance of the film though is given by Billy Connolly as the pedophile priest Crissman. Connolly is frankly astonishing in the part and his performance is among the most effective and eerie of the decade as he projects a damaged and at times sinister vulnerability that is hard to shake.
While Carter indeed doesn’t deliver the film many of the show’s fans have been asking for he does at least fill it with affectionate nods to the series, including a number of quick cameos and visual references. He also adds a late period appearance by one of the show’s most notable characters that allows for probably the film’s most emotional moment.

I Want to Believe isn’t a perfect film by any means. At times the main mystery seems a bit too telegraphed and tired and it’s debatable as to whether a side plot involving one of Scully’s patient is necessary as it is underwritten and at times uninvolving. Carter also missteps a couple of times in his attempts to lighten the mood, especially in a what could have been a clever scene involving photos of George W. Bush and J. Edgar Hoover, a moment spoiled by an unnecessary music queue. The film also fails to hit some of the expected emotional notes it goes for involving the relationship between Mulder and Scully, as though Carter had trouble knowing exactly where to take them as a couple. I actually found Carter’s often maligned direction here to be more effective than his usually more celebrated screenwriting. The co-written with Frank Spotnitz screenplay finally just feels a little under-developed and it hurts the film.

Still, problems aside I Want to Believe is a successful production that works as both a fine finale to the series and a hopeful attempt at restarting it. It is perhaps not what many of the show’s original series fans will want but it is what its creator wanted to deliver, marking it is as one of the most surprising and bravest films of the decade even though it isn’t always completely successful.
Even though everyone involved wants to continue the series with more films, Fox has effectively killed it. Releasing it with a zero ad campaign a week after one of the most successful films of all time, I Want to Believe barely scraped the five million mark on its opening day. Ironically the little cult series with a small but dedicated audience that became an international phenomenon is now back to where it started, which is perhaps the way it should be but for those of us who wanted many more of these it is a bitter disappointment.
Chris Carter marks himself as an exceptionally brave and personal filmmaker with The X-Files: I Want to Believe. It would have been easy for him to have made the fantastical monster movie that many fans expected but instead with I Want to Believe he delivers a heavily symbolic film ripe with religious imagery that suggests the ideas of faith and belief at the core of The X-Files were much deeper than just accepting the possibility of aliens and the paranormal.
I have seen several message boards postings lately asking that Carter apologize for not delivering the film many fans of the show wanted, I would say that for making a brave film obviously very close to the heart, Chris Carter and the cast and crew of I Want to Believe have absolutely nothing to apologize for.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I've always believed...

The X-Files means a great deal to me. Beyond being my favorite TV show, it represents a certain period in my life when discovery seemed less just a possibility and more of a promise. The show’s key catch phrase of “I want to believe” held something particularly poignant and powerful for me during the most difficult period of my life and the series will forever hold a very special place in my heart because of this.
I wish I could say that I was a fan from episode one but, unlike say Twin Peaks which I was with from the pilot on, it took me awhile to find The X-Files. I was of course aware of it from the get-go but I didn’t really fall in love with the show till probably around the release of Fight the Future in 1998. I became totally entranced by the series and the characters of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in that fairly dreadful period of my life and submerged myself in the show, revisiting every back episode and collecting every book, comic, trading card and any piece of memorabilia that I could.

The Season One DVD set came out on my birthday in 2000 and that’s when I finally got to catch up and watch the series in order and really soak it all in. It corresponded with a particular healing period in my life when I got the opportunity to move back to my favorite town of Frankfort, KY for a few years and really get myself back in shape physically and spiritually. The show became a sort of beacon for me and I considered those amazing sets that landed every five or six months to be godsends.
For many people the show lost its edge by the time David Duchovny left and while I agree that it wasn’t as transcendent as it had been without him, I really came to admire both Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish who were both given the near impossible task of filling in for one of the most iconic characters in television history. The final couple of seasons of The X-Files has its fans and I count myself among them. I also adored The Lone Gunmen, the doomed spin-off series that was deserving of much more than the measly one season Fox granted it.
I think perhaps the falling of the series in many people’s eyes from a cultural phenomenon to something rather passé was somehow inevitable. The new film I Want to Believe finds itself in an odd bind. The show isn’t old enough yet to culturally have that nostalgic hazy glow about it for most people but it is just past the point where it is on the cultural radar of a lot of younger people. Whether it succeeds or fails this weekend remains to be seen but I promise that in fifteen or twenty years when an entire new generation is discovering the magic of this very special series, this film will be more than a footnote.

For me, The X-Files hit its most majestic moment in the very last shot of The Truth, the much maligned and admittedly flawed final episode of the series, when the phrase “I want to believe” took on an entirely new spiritually meaning that was simultaneously shocking and touching. For many fans, this subtle and minimalist ending was a deal breaker, a sign that the show had lost its course, but for me the moment cemented everything I loved about the show. What The X-Files finally had to say about the power of faith, skepticism and what the very meaning is behind the word ‘believe’ was in a very simple word, special.

David Duchovny recently released a statement asking fans of the show to see the film at theaters because he wants badly to play this part again. I Want to Believe is under a lot of pressure as the studio is looking for a certain figure to greenlight the next film everyone in the project seems to want to do. I get the feeling that Duchovny has grown to feel about Fox Mulder the way myself and a lot of other fans do about the character, that he represents a particularly special and pivotal point in our lives. I hope I Want To Believe isn’t the final chapter for Fox Mulder and Dana Scully but if it is then they had a hell of a run. Regardless of whether I Want to Believe succeeds or fails, I will be there opening day and I know it will be a special and emotional experience for me.

Roger Ebert Gives The X-Files: I Want To Believe a Near 4 Star Review


I must admit that I felt myself slipping into a depression yesterday as the early (and very mixed) reviews of The X-Files: I Want To Believe started coming in, so I was thrilled to wake up this morning to see Roger Ebert giving the film a near 4 star rating. I am deliberately not reading any of the reviews that closely as I don't want my viewing of the film tomorrow spoiled in any way but here is the link to Ebert's for those interested.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Moon In The Gutter Q&A: Claudia Barton From Gamine


When I first discovered the remarkable Gamine, a London duo made up of Claudia Barton and Ian Williams, I was immediately struck by how cinematic and totally unique their sound was. Looking over their influences I noticed they had as many film figures listed as they did musical ones and I felt an immediate kinship to them, so it is a great honor to have Claudia be Moon In The Gutter's first ever short interview subject.
I hope this serves to introduce some new people to the wonderful world of Gamine and I would like to ask everyone reading this to visit their official site and MySpace page for more information. They also have a LastFm station set up where you can listen to Sabotage, one of the most striking and ingenious albums of the decade.
Thanks so much to both Claudia and Ian for taking some time out of their busy schedules to do this for me and for putting up with my rather daft questions!

Gamine 2

MOON IN THE GUTTER: Can you tell me a bit about your background? Where are you from originally and what sparked your passion for music and film?

CLAUDIA: Ian grew up on a farm, in the garden of England, perhaps it is still possible to hear those farmyard animals instilled in his melodies. I was brought up in a house void of music, so had to make up little songs of my own to fill the emptiness. Czech and French new wave helped my rehabilitation into society. With friends like Chytilová, Jean-Luc, Henri Michaux, Brel, Michel Legrand, and J.P. Donlevy I knew I would never be lonely again.

Then at seventeen I met Ian, who showed me that pop didn’t have to be a filthy word. My sphere of influences became quite wholesome. He says we have Catholic tastes. I see it as a cultural animism, finding soul in all, nearly all, mediums and genres.

MITG: How did Gamine initially come together?

CLAUDIA: Gamine always existed. Well it did long before I was even born. Ian is several decades older then me. It was just a twinkle in his eye until we met in a casino in St Petersburg where I was singing for vodkas. He was with Bill Pritchard, and they both realised that this concept they had been working on could be made flesh. So after some months straightening out my accent and teaching me how to dress and carry myself I became the avatar for Gamine.

MITG: I'm struck by how you have as many cinematic influences listed on your profile page as well as musical ones. Can you talk a little bit on how much the world of cinema means to Gamine and how it affects your sound?

CLAUDIA: The world of cinema is very important to Gamine - it is where we nick our best ideas. We have been so rapacious, a cinematic tension now comes naturally.

Gamine 4

MITG: Can you describe your songwriter process? Is one of you more responsible for the lyrics and the other the music or is it more of an even split? Also do you create a song around a certain style or influence or do they just sort of fall into one?

CLAUDIA: Ian has written great volumes of musical ideas, scored neatly in pencil, it’s sweet really. So when the mood takes us he plays through them and when he plays one that I fall in love with, I use all my feminine wiles to get it off him so I can write some lyrics to it. You see, he is a terrible hoarder. He has promised to leave me the manuscripts in his will. So the inspiration for the songs is always in the music, Ian, in his wisdom, admits the musical credit is due to the universe, for mostly the tunes come like divine intervention. But to keep things simple we split the credits 50/50.

MITG: I'm very impressed by all of your influences as I see so many of my favorites there from film figures like Bardot to Delon to composers from Nicolai to Preisner. Also, it is fabulous to see Jimmy Webb and Richard Harris on there as I don't see those two giants mentioned enough. Admiring so many great musical outsiders, have you two encountered much resistance to your sound or has the opposite been true?

CLAUDIA: For years all we met was resistance. We had been working on this all encompassing epic pop album (never yet released) but nobody wanted to hear, surf pop, pop, disco, trance, dance, ballads, and a rock anthem with great lyrics on one album. I think they found it distasteful. So we just wrote Sabotage and released it expecting the usual barrage of rotten fruit and veg, but instead our audiences were reduced to tears. Grown men who hadn’t wept in years would come up after the shows choking and try to find the words to tell us they would like their copy of the album signed. It wasn’t at all what we expected. So our music is reactionary; aggression, or sorrow, so far. I’d like to have a go at fear, and maybe one day joy. The next album is designed to make people fall asleep.

Gamine 3

MITG: Who are some modern artists you feel kinship to? Alison Goldfrapp is one of the only people I can think of who manages to sound so distinctive while embracing so many different styles. Whose around on the scene right now that you find yourself listening to?

CLAUDIA: Gamine is a bit of a loner. If I said we felt a kinship with some modern artists, doubtless they would deny any mutual feelings. However, Anthony and the Johnsons, The Czars, Dustin O’ Halloran, Ilya, Linda Perhacs, Marina Celeste, Mariza, Messer Chups, Richard Hawley, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Zerocrop are sort of around, at least they are still living and we have been listening to them recently. I am going to watch Dengue Fever this week but Ian says he would rather stay home and listen to Yol Aularong and Ros Sereysothea.

MITG: What has been the most exciting and/or strange moment in Gamine's career?

CLAUDIA: We played a contest for the saddest music in the world at the premier party for the film The Saddest Music in the World at the Cafe de Paris in London. It was packed, smoky and riotous. We refused to play until there was absolute silence, but once Ian struck the first chord of "Checkmate" a sweet sadness seized the room.

The Director, Guy Maddin, was to present the award to the winner at the end, and he stood on stage, quite bemused and said, “I think Gamine should have won this,” but the event had been rigged and he had to hand the award to some music industry product. Perfect!



MITG: Can you talk on some future plans in regards to a new album, touring etc?

CLAUDIA: Very soon our lullaby album will be complete. We will, of course, perform many shows when it is released, although we expect the concerts to be short, as, if the music has the desired effect, the audience should be asleep by the second or third song.

MITG: Is there any particular song that stands out to you as an ultimate introduction to Gamine for a newbie that you can think of?

CLAUDIA: There really is no defining song for Gamine. For people who think they might know us there is bound to be a nasty shock at some point. But ‘Love and Poverty’ might be a good representative from Sabotage. It is stark, dark, sad, and seraphic.

***Finally, just for fun I asked Claudia five general questions centered on some of their influences***

MITG: "Je t'aime... moi non plus"...Bardot or Birkin's version?

CLAUDIA: We don’t mind which lovely lady performs it.

MITG: Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy...Blue, White or Red?

CLAUDIA: Ian says White, I say Red.

MITG: Favorite Morricone Score?

CLAUDIA: This week it’s Queimada.

MITG: Delon or Belmondo?

CLAUDIA: What is day without night?

MITG: Tom Waits...Before Swordfish Trombones or after?

CLAUDIA: I never stop marvelling at the man!

***

Thanks again to both Claudia and Ian for taking the time to do this.

Two by Gamine: An Introduction to Moon In The Gutter's First Ever Q&A

Shortly I will be posting Moon In The Gutter's first ever Q&A with the very charming Claudia Barton from Gamine, a London Duo made up of Claudia and Ian Williams that has become one of my favorite modern bands since I discovered them just over a year ago. As an introduction, here are two videos from this remarkable duo.

First up we have the lovely "Oh, Mon Cheri!" which is complimented by this very striking black and white video directed by Gamine and Zachary Powell:



We also have the infectious "Westport Lake" which is accompanied by one of my favorite videos of the decade directed again by Gamine this time with Seonaid MacKay. Enjoy and my Q&A with Claudia will be posted shortly.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cinema's Great Faces: Caroline Munro

This is part of my Caroline Munro Tribute Week at Harry Moseby Confidential.

Caroline Munro
Caroline Munro came into this world at the very beginning of the decade that brought us Rock 'n' Roll, The New Wave and Playboy. Born on the sixteenth day of January 1950 in Windsor, Berkshire she grew up around the Rottingdean district near Brighton. The former Catholic Convent schoolgirl stumbled into what would turn into her film career just past her sixteenth birthday when her mother entered a photograph of her into a contest The Evening News was having called “Face of the Year”. This entry opened the door to an instant modeling career, the promise of fame and London, the city she relocated to less than a year later.
Caroline’s remarkable face and figure began appearing everywhere in London newspapers, ads and magazines and soon film producers were clamoring to preserve her distinctive beauty on celluloid. Bit parts began as early as 1966 (with Casino Royale in 1967 being one of them) as well as some brief work as a singer and in 1969 she landed her first major film role, in the comedic western A Talent For Loving for director Richard Quine. Despite being nearly completely inexperienced the young Munro had no trouble holding her own against such heavyweight veterans as Richard Widmark and Cesar Romero in this lightweight but intriguing film.
Caroline Munro
A flurry of film roles (including parts in the Dr. Phibes films) as well as modeling assignments followed before Caroline would land one of her most popular roles in Hammer’s Dracula A.D. 1972 for director Alan Gibson. While not one of the leads, Caroline’s work in the film (and in the film’s memorable promotional campaign) opposite Christopher Lee would prove to be very iconic and would make her instantaneously one of the premiere Scream Queens of the seventies.
Caroline Munro
With her affiliation with Hammer in place, Caroline scored possibly her finest role in 1974 with Brian Clemen’s remarkable Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter. Charismatic, charming and never less than effective, Caroline would prove to be one of the biggest assets to one of Hammer’s most enduring classics of the seventies.
1974 would also bring her the role of Margiana in Gordon Hessler’s terrific The Golden Voyage of Sinbad opposite the much missed John Phillip Law. The film has turned out to be, along with Kronos, among the most loved productions Caroline graced in the seventies.
Caroline Munro
Steady work followed throughout the rest of the decade in such films as The Devil Within Her (1975), At The Earth’s Core (1976) as well as some television work. Caroline then became one of the most memorable Bond girls of the seventies in the rejuvenating The Spy Who Loved Me for director Lewis Gilbert in 1977 and she proved up to the challenge of Luigi Cozzi’s goofy but enduring Star Wars cash in flick StarCrash in 1978.
The eighties began with a bang for Caroline with one of her most controversial roles in William Lustig’s masterpiece Maniac, a ferocious film that paired Caroline in an unlikely part as a photographer being romanced by psychopath Joe Spinell. The two would work together again two years later in the less noteworthy The Last Horror Film. She also made many a head turn in Adam Ant's popular "Goody Two Shoes" video in this period as well.
Caroline Munro
As the eighties progressed, Caroline made fewer films and concentrated more on her family. She did make the time to appear in Jess Franco's fine Faceless in 1988 and made a second film with Cozzi in 1989, The Black Cat.
Caroline is a fixture on the Horror Convention circuit as a reputation of being one of the warmest and most genuine people in the business. While her film career could have perhaps been more (she turned down roles in Superman among many other high profile films) she is a legend to many genre film fans, a class act who graced some of the most memorable films of the seventies. She has recently released an acclaimed DVD featuring a long interview with her as well as numerous extras. Information on this release and her career can be found at her official site.