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Posts tagged “David Bowie

Nicolas Roeg R.I.P

Nic_RoegI love Nic Roeg movies. Along with Ken Russell he was an artistic touchstone in the British film industry through the 70’s and 80’s, they were provocative, original, broke new ground, caused trouble and most important, were never boring. Nic Roeg died on Sunday aged 90, rest in peace.

From his early years as a clapper boy, Roeg had progressed to world-class cinematographer, working for second unit camera under Freddie Young on David Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Roeg’s work on this led to important credits including Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death (1964), Francois Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and on John Schlesinger’s Far From the Madding Crowd (1967).

By the late 60s, after a career in cinematography which would have been quite enough for most mortals, he came to directing remarkably late: Performance (1970) Walkabout (1971), Don’t Look Now (1973), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Bad Timing (1980). And even after that he continued to make excellent movies, including Eureka (1983), Insignificance (1985), the fantasy of Marilyn Monroe meeting Albert Einstein, Track 29 (1988), the sensually charged Dennis Potter drama with Gary Oldman and Roeg’s partner Theresa Russell, and his excellent Roald Dahl fantasy The Witches (1990) with Anjelica Huston.

After his run of brilliant films in the 70s, the British antipathy to experimentation, and films lacking conventional narrative-based realism, resulted in the comparative neglect of Roeg had no liking for self-publicity, which resulted in some projects falling to other directors. As he remarked, he “refused to join the club”.

What an extraordinary film-maker Nic Roeg was, a man whose imagination and technique could not be confined to conventional genres. He should be remembered for a clutch of masterly films, but perhaps especially for his classic Don’t Look Now, not merely the best British scary movie in history, but one infused with compassion and love.

R.I.P. Lou Reed

Lou-Reed-608x732Lou Reed, the singer, songwriter and guitarist whose work with the Velvet Underground in the 1960’s had an impact on generations of rock musicians, and who remained a powerful if polarising force for the rest of his life, died on Sunday at his home in Southampton on Long Island, New York. He was 71.

The cause was liver disease, said Dr Charles Miller of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where Reed had liver transplant surgery earlier this year and was being treated again until a few days ago.

“I’ve always believed that there’s an amazing number of things you can do through a rock ‘n’ roll song,” Reed once told the journalist Kristine McKenna, “and that you can do serious writing in a rock song if you can somehow do it without losing the beat. The things I’ve written about wouldn’t be considered a big deal if they appeared in a book or movie.”

Reed played the sport of alienating listeners, defending the right to contradict himself in hostile interviews, to contradict his transgressive image by idealising sweet or old-fashioned values in word or sound, or to present intuition as blunt logic. But his early work assured him a permanent audience.

The Velvet Underground, which was originally sponsored by Andy Warhol and showcased the songwriting of John Cale, as well as Reed, wrought gradual but profound impact on the high-IQ, low-virtuosity stratum of alternative and underground rock around the world.

Joy Division, the Talking Heads, Patti Smith, R.E.M., the Strokes and numerous others were direct descendants. The composer Brian Eno, in an often-quoted interview from 1982, suggested that if the group’s first record sold only 30,000 records during its first five years — a figure probably lower than the reality — “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

Many of the group’s themes — among them love, sexual deviance, alienation, addiction, joy and spiritual transfiguration — stayed in Reed’s work through his long run of solo recordings. Among the most noteworthy of those records were Transformer (1973), Berlin (1973) and New York (1992). The most notorious, without question, was Metal Machine Music(1975).

Beloved of Reed and not too many others, Metal Machine Music was four sides of electric-guitar feedback strobing between two amplifiers, with Reed altering the speed of the tape recorder; no singing, no drums, no stated key. At the time it was mostly understood, if at all, as a riddle about artistic intent. Was it his truest self, was it a joke, or was there no difference?

Reed wrote in the liner notes that “no one I know has listened to it all the way through, including myself,” but he also defended it as the next step after La Monte Young’s early minimalism. “There’s infinite ways of listening to it,” he told the critic Lester Bangs in 1976.

“I was serious about it,” Reed said of the album more than a decade later. “I was also really stoned.”

Not too long after his first recordings, made at 16 with a doo-wop band in Freeport, New York, Reed started singing outside of the song’s melody, as if he were giving a speech with a fluctuating monotone in his Brooklyn-Queens drawl. That sound, eventually heard with the Velvet Underground on songs such as Heroin, Sweet Jane and in his post-Velvets songs Walk on the Wild Side, Street Hassle and others, eventually spread outward to become one of the most familiar frequencies in rock. He played lead guitar the same way, hitting against the wall of his limitations.

Reed is survived by his wife, the composer and performance artist Laurie Anderson. Dr Miller said Reed decided to return to New York after the doctors could no longer treat his end-stage liver disease.

“He died peacefully, with his loved ones around him,” Dr Miller said. “We did everything we could,” added Dr Miller, the director of the hospital’s liver transplant program. “He really wanted to be at home.”

Sober since the 1980s, Reed was a practitioner of Tai Chi. “Lou was fighting right up to the very end,” Dr. Miller said. “He was doing his Tai Chi exercises within an hour of his death, trying to keep strong and keep fighting.”

“I am a triumph of modern medicine, physics and chemistry,” Reed wrote in a public statement upon his release from the hospital. “I am bigger and stronger than ever.” Less than a month later, he wrote a review of Kanye West’s album Yeezus for the online publication The Talkhouse, celebrating its abrasiveness and returning once more to Metal Machine Music to explain an artist’s deepest motives.

“I have never thought of music as a challenge — you always figure the audience is at least as smart as you are,” he wrote. “You do this because you like it, you think what you’re making is beautiful. And if you think it’s beautiful, maybe they think it’s beautiful.”

Christian Bale – Part 2

Christian Bale_movie banner_2In 2004, after completing filming for The Machinist, Bale won the coveted role of Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, a reboot of the Batman film series.

public_enemies_poster_02Still fresh off The Machinist, it became necessary for Bale to bulk up to match Batman’s muscular physique. He was given a deadline of six months to do this. Bale recalled it as far from a simple accomplishment: “…when it actually came to building muscle, I was useless. I couldn’t do one push up the first day. All of the muscles were gone, so I had a real tough time rebuilding all of that.” With the help of a personal trainer, Bale succeeded in meeting the deadline, gaining a total of 100 lb (45 kg) in six months. He went from about 130 lbs to 230 lbs. He then discovered that he had actually gained more weight than the director desired, and dropped his weight to 190 lbs by the time filming began.

Bale had initial concerns about playing Batman, as he felt more ridiculous than intimidating in the Batsuit, he dealt with this by depicting Batman as a savage beast. To attain a deeper understanding of the character, Bale read various Batman comic books. He explained his interpretation of the young boy: “Batman is his hidden, demonic rage-filled side. The creature Batman creates is an absolutely sincere creature and one that he has to control but does so in a very haphazard way. He’s capable of enacting violence — and to kill — so he’s constantly having to rein himself in.” For Bale, the most gruelling part about playing Batman was the suit. “You stick it on, you get hot, you sweat and you get a headache in the mask,” he said. “But I’m not going to bitch about it because I get to play Batman.” When promoting the film in interviews and public events, Bale retained an American accent to avoid confusion.

batman-the-dark-knight-trilogy-2012-wallpaper-for-1440x900-widescreen-8-66Batman Begins was released in the U.S. on 15 June 2005 and was a U.S. and international triumph for Warner Bros., costing approximately US$135 million to produce and taking in over US$370 million in returns worldwide. Bale earned the Best Hero award at the 2006 MTV Movie Awards for his performance.

Bale reprised his role as Batman in Nolan’s Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight. He trained in the Kevsi Fighting Method, and performed many of his own stunts. The Dark Knight was released in the U.S. on 18 July 2008 and stormed through the box office, with a record-breaking $158.4 million in the U.S. in its first weekend. It broke the $300 million barrier in 10 days, the $400 million mark in 18 days and the $500 million mark in 43 days, three new U.S. box office records set by the film. The film went on to gross over $1 billion at the box office worldwide, making it the fourth-highest grossing movie worldwide of all time, before adjusting for inflation.

The Dark Knight Rises_Batman_posterBale reprised his Batman role in The Dark Knight Rises released on 20 July 2012, making Bale the actor who has played Batman the most times in feature film. Bale has given the same opinion as Nolan that, if the latter was forced to bring Robin into the films, he would never again play Batman; even though one of his favorite Batman stories, Batman: Dark Victory, focuses on Robin’s origin.

In 2006, Bale took on four projects: Rescue Dawn, by German film maker Werner Herzog, had him playing U.S. Fighter pilot Dieter Dengler, who has to fight for his life after being shot down while on a mission during the Vietnam War. Bale left a strong impression on Herzog, with the director complimenting his acting abilities: “I find him one of the greatest talents of his generation. We made up our own minds long before he did Batman.

batman_the_dark_knight_rises-wideIn The Prestige, an adaptation of the Christopher Priest novel about a rivalry between two Victorian stage magicians, Bale was reunited with Batman BeginsMichael Caine and director Christopher Nolan. The cast of The Prestige also included Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, and David Bowie. I’m Not There, a film in which Bale again worked alongside Todd Haynes and Heath Ledger (who would go on to play The Joker in The Dark Knight), is an artistic reflection of the life of Bob Dylan. He starred opposite Russell Crowe in a commercially and critically successful Western film, 3:10 to Yuma. Bale played John Connor in Terminator Salvation and FBI agent Melvin Purvis in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies. 

In 2010, Bale portrayed Dicky Eklund in the biopic The Fighter. He received critical acclaim for his role and won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and the Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.

Nagisa Ōshima 大島 渚

Nagisa Ōshima (大島 渚, born March 31, 1932, Kyoto) is a Japanese film director and screenwriter, best known for his 1983 movie Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, starring musicians David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto. After graduating from Kyoto University Oshima was hired by film production company Shochiku Ltd. and quickly progressed to directing his own movies, making his debut feature A Town of Love and Hope (愛と希望の街; Ai to kibō no machi) in 1959.

Ōshima’s cinematic career and influence developed very swiftly, and early watershed films Cruel Story of Youth (青春残酷物語), The Sun’s Burial (太陽の墓場) and Night and Fog in Japan (日本の夜と霧) all followed in 1960. Due to the political controversy surrounding the latter film, Ōshima left Shochiku and directed The Catch (1961), about the relationship between a wartime Japanese village and a captured African American serviceman. The Catch introduced a thematic exploration of bigotry and xenophobia, themes which would be explored in greater depth in the later documentary Diary Of Yunbogi, and feature films Death By Hanging and Three Resurrected Drunkards.

Ōshima produced a series of documentaries; notably among them 1965’s Diary Of Yunbogi. Based upon an examination of the lives of street children in Seoul. He followed with Band of Ninja (1967), Ninja Bugei-chō (1967), Diary Of A Shinjuku Thief and Boy (both 1969).

The Ceremony (1971) was a satirical look at Japanese attitudes. However, Ōshima is best known for In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no korīda; 愛のコリーダ 1976), a film based on a true story of fatal sexual obsession in 1930s Japan. Ōshima, who was openly a critic of censorship and his contemporary Akira Kuosawa’s humanism, was determined that the film should feature unsimulated sex and thus the undeveloped film had to be transported to France to be processed and an uncensored version of the movie is still unavailable in Japan.

His follow-up and 1978 companion film to In the Realm of the Senses, Empire of Passion (Ai no bōrei; 愛の亡霊), Ōshima took a more restrained approach to depicting the sexual passions of the two lovers driven to murder, and the film won the 1978 Cannes Film Festival award for best director.

In 1983 Ōshima had a critical success with a film made partly in English, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (known as Furyo in several countries), which is set in a wartime prison camp, and features rockstar David Bowie and electronic musician Ryuichi  Sakamoto, alongside future director Takeshi Kitano, as examples of Western and Eastern military virtue. Furyo, as the movie is known in Europe and many other non-English speaking countries, has long since become a cult classic. Max, Mon Amour(1986), written with Luis  Buñuel’s frequent collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, was a comedy about a diplomat’s wife (Charlotte Rampling) whose love affair with a chimpanzee is quietly incorporated into an eminently civilised Ménage à trois

For much of the 1980s and 1990s, he served as president of the Directors Guild of Japan. (He actually won the inaugural Directors Guild of Japan New Directors Award in 1960.)

In 1996 Ōshima suffered a stroke, but he returned to directing in 1999 with the period piece Taboo (Gohatto), featuring Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence actor Takeshi Kitano and music by co-star and composer Ryuichi  Sakamoto. Oshima has since suffered two more strokes, so future films are unlikely. Nagisa Ōshima currently lives in Fujisawa in Kangawa Prefecture.

A collection of Ōshima’s essays and articles was published in English in 1993 as Cinema, Censorship and the State. A critical study by Maureen Turim, The Films of Oshima Nagisa: Images of a Japanese Iconoclast appeared in 1998

Catherine Deneuve

Catherine Deneuve, born 22 October 1943) is a French actress. She gained recognition for her portrayal of aloof and mysterious beauties in films such as ‘Repulsion’ (1965) and ‘Belle de Jour’ (1967). Deneuve was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1993 for her performance in ‘Indochine’; she also won Cesar Awards for that film and ‘The Last Metro’ (1980). Considered one of France’s most successful actresses, she has also appeared in seven English-language films, most notably the 1983 cult classic ‘The Hunger’.

Repulsion is a 1965 British psychological thriller directed by Roman Polanski, based on a scenario by Gerard Brach and Polanski. Polanski’s first English language film, the plot follows Carole Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve) is a young Belgian manicurist who lives in Kensington, London, with her sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux). Carol seems shy and interacts with men awkwardly. When Helen leaves on a holiday to Italy with her married boyfriend, Michael (Ian Hendry), Carol acts distracted at work, refuses to leave her apartment, leaves a raw, skinned rabbit out to rot, and sees hallucinations, first of the walls cracking, then reaching out with hands to grab and attack her, and finally of a man breaking in and raping her.

The film is shot in black and white, increasingly adopting the perspective of its protagonist. The dream sequences are particularly intense; dark, creepy and disturbing, Repulsion still packs a punch today. Repulsion is the first of Polanski’s “apartment trilogy” (the other two being ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968) and ‘The Tenant’ (Le Locataire, 1976).

The Hunger is a 1983 British gothic horror film and the directorial debut of Tony Scott. It is the story of a love triangle between doctor Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) who specializes in sleep and aging research and a counter-culture vampire couple Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) and John (David Bowie). The film is a loose adaptation of the 1981 novel of the same name by Whitley Streiber.

The films opens in a night club in New York to a live performance from Bauhaus playing Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Periodic killing and feeding upon human victims allows Miriam and John to possess eternal youth, or at least that is what John was led to believe. John begins aging rapidly. He realizes that Miriam knew that this would happen, and that her promises of “forever and ever” were only partially true. He WILL have eternal life, but not eternal youth and vitality. Feeling betrayed, he seeks out the help of Dr. Sarah Roberts; Sarah assumes that John is a hypochondriac or mentally unbalanced, and ignores his pleas for help. As John leaves the clinic in a rage, Sarah is horrified to see how rapidly John is aging.

I loved The Hunger when it first came out, visual stylish and featuring an incredibly sensual love scene between Deneuve and Sarandon, it was perfect fodder for me as a young student. The Hunger was not particularly well-received upon its initial release, and was attacked by many critics for being heavy on atmosphere and visuals but slow on pace and plot. However, the film has found a cult following that responded to its dark, glamorous atmosphere and is also popular with some segments of the goth subculture, due to the ethereal look and aforementioned Bauhaus opening number. It also inspired a short-lived TV series of the same name.