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Archive for March 5, 2012

Ralph McQuarrie

Legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie died on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012. Rest in Peace.

Ralph McQuarrie (June 13, 1929 – March 3, 2012) was a conceptual designer and illustrator who designed the original Star Wars trilogy, the original Battlestar Galactica TV series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Cocoon, for which he won an Academy Award.

Born in Gary, Indiana, McQuarrie moved to California in the 1960s. Initially he worked as a technical illustrator for Boeing, as well designing film posters and animating CBS New’s coverage of the Apollo space program at the three-man company Reel Three. While there, McQuarrie was asked by Hal Barwood to produce some illustrations for a film project he and Matthew Robbins were starting.

Impressed with his work, director George Lucas met with him to discuss his plans for a space-fantasy film. Several years later, in 1975, Lucas commissioned McQuarrie to illustrate several scenes from the script of the film, Star Wars. McQuarrie designed many of the film’s characters, including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO and drew many concepts for the film’s sets. McQuarrie’s concept paintings, including such scenes as R2-D2 and C-3PO arriving on Tatooine, helped convince 20th Century Fox to fund Star Wars, which became a huge success upon release in 1977. Neil Kendricks of The San Diego Union-Tribune stated McQuarrie “holds a unique position when it comes to defining much of the look of the “Star Wars” universe.” McQuarrie noted “I thought I had the best job that an artist ever had on a film, and I had never worked on a feature film before. I still get fan mail — people wondering if I worked on Episode I or just wanting to have my autograph.”

McQuarrie went on to work as the conceptual designer on the film’s two sequels The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. 

McQuarrie played the uncredited role of General Pharl McQuarrie in The Empire Strikes Back. An action figure in his likeness as “General McQuarrie” was produced. Action figures based on McQuarrie’s concept art, including conceptual versions of the Imperial Stormtrooper, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3Po, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and other characters have also been made.

McQuarrie designed the alien ships in Steven Spielberg’s films Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), while his work as the conceptual artist on the 1985 film Cocoon earned him the Academy Award for Visual Effects.He also worked on the 1978 TV series Battlestar Galactica, and the films Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, *batteries not included and Jurassic Park.

Rick McCallum offered McQuarrie a role as designer for the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but he rejected the offer, noting he had “run out of steam” and Industrial Light & Magic animator Doug Chiang was appointed instead. He retired and his Star Wars concept paintings were subsequently displayed in art exhibitions, including the 1999 Star Wars: The Magic of Myth.

McQuarrie died aged 82 on March 3, 2012, in his Berkeley, California home. He is survived by his wife Joan.

Lucas commented after McQuarrie’s death: “His genial contribution, in the form of unequalled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘do it like this’.”


Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini (March 5, 1922 – November 2, 1975) was an Italian film director, poet, writer and intellectual. Pasolini distinguished himself as a poet, journalist, philosopher, linguist, novelist, playwright, artist and filmmaker.He demonstrated a unique and extraordinary cultural versatility, becoming a highly controversial figure in the process.

Pasolini was born in Boligna, traditionally one of the most leftist of Italian cities. His family moved around due to his fathers work, to Conegliano, Belluno and Casara della Delizia, in the Friuli region. In 1939 Pasolini graduated and entered the Literature College of the University of Bologna. During the war, he moved around until in the weeks before the 8 September armistice, he was drafted. He was captured and imprisoned by the Germans. He managed to escape disguised as a peasant, and found his way to Casarsa.

From May 1944 they issued a magazine entitled Stroligùt di cà da l’aga. In 1946 Pasolini published a small poetry collection, I Diarii (“The Diaries”), with the Academiuta. In October he travelled to Rome where he completed a drama in Italian, Il Cappellano; published a poetry collection, I Pianti (“The cries”), and on 26 January 1947 Pasolini wrote a controversial declaration for the front page of the newspaper Libertà: “In our opinion, we think that currently only Communism is able to provide a new culture.”  He took part in several demonstrations, observing the struggles of workers and peasants, and watching the clashes of protesters with Italian police, he began to create his first novel.

In October of the same year, Pasolini was charged with the corruption of minors and obscene acts in public places.

In 1954, Pasolini, who now worked for the literary section of Italian state radio, left his teaching job and moved to the Monteverde quarter, publishing La meglio gioventù, his first important collection of dialect poems. His first novel, Ragazzi di vita (English: Hustlers), was published in 1955. The work had great success but was poorly received by the PCI establishment and, most importantly, by the Italian government.

In 1957, together with Sergio Citti, Pasolini collaborated on Federico Fellini’s film le notti di Cabina, writing dialogue for the Roman dialect parts. In 1960 he made his debut as an actor in Il gobbo, and co-wrote Long Night in 1943. 

His first film as director and screenwriter is Accattone (1961), again set in Rome’s marginal quarters. The movie aroused controversy and scandal. In 1963, the episode “La ricotta”, included in the collective movie RoGoPaG, was censored and Pasolini was tried for offence to the Italian state.

He then directed the black-and-white The Gospel According to St Matthew (1964). This film is a cinematic adaptation of the life of Jesus (Enrique Irazoqui). While filming it, Pasolini vowed to direct it from the “believer’s point of view”, but later said that upon viewing the completed work, he realized he had instead expressed his own beliefs.

In his 1966 film, Uccellacci e uccellini (literally Bad Birds and Little Birds but translated in English as The Hawks and the Sparrows), a picaresque – and at the same time mystic – fable, he hired the great Italian comedian Totò to work with one of his preferred “naif” actors, Ninetto Davoli. It was a unique opportunity for Totò to demonstrate that he was a great dramatic actor as well.

In Teorema (Theorem, 1968), starring Terence Stamp as a mysterious stranger, he depicted the sexual coming-apart of a bourgeois family (later repeated by Francois Ozon in Sitcom and Takashi Miike in Visitor Q).

Later movies centered on sex-laden folklore, such as Boccaccio’s Decameron (1971) and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1972), and Il fiore delle mille e una notte (The Flower of 1001 Nights, released in English as Arabian Nights, 1974). These films are usually grouped as the Trilogy of Life.

His final work, Salò, (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, 1975), exceeded what most viewers could then stomach in its explicit scenes of intensely sadistic violence. Based on the novel 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, it is considered his most controversial film. In May 2006, Time Out’s Film Guide named it the Most Controversial Film of all time. I saw it in late 1996 with a flatmate at the now defunct Third Eye cinema in Surry Hills, Sydney. My flatmate, who had initiated the trip to see the movie, stormed out during the final reel… it remains one of the most intriging and disturbing movies I have ever seen. 

Pasolini was also an ardent critic of consumismo, i.e. consumerism, which he felt had rapidly destroyed Italian society in the late 1960s/early 1970s. He described the coprphagia scenes in Salò as a comment on the processed food industry. In one interview, he said: “I hate with particular vehemency the current power, the power of 1975, which is a power that manipulates bodies in a horrible way; a manipulation that has nothing to envy to that performed by Himmler or Hitler.”

Pasolini was murdered by being run over several times with his own car, dying on 2 November 1975 on the beach at Ostia, near Rome. Pasolini was buried in Casarsa, in his beloved Fruili. Giuseppe Pelosi, a seventeen-year-old hustler, was arrested and confessed to murdering Pasolini. Thirty years later, on 7 May 2005, he retracted his confession, which he said was made under the threat of violence to his family. He claimed that three people “with a southern accent” had committed the murder, insulting Pasolini as a “dirty communist”.

Other evidence uncovered in 2005 pointed to Pasolini’s having been murdered by an extortionist. Testimony by Pasolini’s friend Sergio Citti indicated that some of the rolls of film from Salò had been stolen, and that Pasolini had been going to meet with the thieves after a visit to Stockholm, November 2, 1975. Despite the Roman police’s reopening of the murder case following Pelosi’s statement of May 2005, the judges charged with investigating it determined the new elements insufficient for them to continue the inquiry.


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