“Soul grabs you by the balls and lifts you above the shite.” Ne’er was a truer word spoken. Undoubtedly one of the greatest music films of all time, The Commitments marks its 25th anniversary this year with a home entertainment re-release bursting with the vibrancy, heart, humour and charm of Alan Parker’s 1991 feature. It remains an uplifting, enriching cinematic experience and wall to wall blast of sound, voluminous perms and full lexicon of Irish craic that shines with an entirely positive outlook on life and hardship in spite of the unemployment and urban decay faced by its main players in late 80’s north Dublin.
“This fellow Keaton seems to be the whole show.” So says Buster on a visit to the titular playhouse in a 1921 short where the stony-faced actor-director appears simultaneously as spectator, conductor, performer and musician on a programme with only one name – his own. Revelling in the union of cinematic invention and the inner workings of life on the stage, multiple exposures allow for jaw-dropping replications of his figure before an ingenious deployment of backstage mirrors achieves the same effect by more traditional means.
There are very fine, often blurred lines between notoriety, fame, popularity and infamy in the movie business and few stars had to so persistently endure their objectifying slings and arrows as Ingrid Bergman. Over the course of a glittering career the wilfully independent Swedish actress made front page headlines for scandal and success in equal measure; most famously for an affair with Italian neo-realist director Roberto Rossellini which would lead to children and a second marriage.
Kicking, screaming, swearing and drunkenly staggering his way to centre stage in pulsing, combative bio-drama Sid and Nancy is one of the punk movement’s most vulgar, deplorable and magnetic shining lights. The Sex Pistols’ so-called bassist, Sid Vicious, was a tortured soul who burned with violent intensity that repelled, frightened, confused and attracted those around him in bewildering fashion.
A Poem is a Naked Person is pretty far out, man. In the very loosest sense of the term a documentary biopic of Oklahoma musician Leon Russell, Les Blank’s long-lost film orbits the hirsute, enigmatic singer-songwriter onstage, in the studio and relaxing at home. However, in eschewing effusive talking heads and hagiography this is in no way an inspection of fame, riches and musical stardom. Instead Russell is the magnetic epicentre of a much broader contemplation on the nature of being, creation and self-truth at a time of peace and love.
Jean-Luc Godard was and remains a director whose oeuvre oscillates between a clear repulsion and exultant attraction to the intricacies, inner workings and capabilities of his metier. Nowhere was this more profoundly expressed than in Le Mépris (1963), a biting critique of the cinema industry and, according to Martin Scorsese, “one of the greatest films ever made about the actual process of filmmaking.”
Prior to making his one and only appearance as 007, George Lazenby had worked as a male model and acted in commercials; he should perhaps have stuck to the old day job. Filling Sean Connery’s shoes – albeit briefly – he is unfortunately the main reason that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is not considered one of the series’ greats, which given an unusually heartfelt plot and spectacular action sequences, Peter Hunt’s film had the potential to be.
SPECTRE is now only two months away. Excitement levels should be approaching the dangerously red end of the spectrum. If not, never fear, BEHIND-THE-SEENS is here to help get you in the mood.
A young man runs after a streetcar along a snowy Moscow street. Seen through the rear window of the moving car, he struggles to catch up but is determined to do so. He jumps on and finds a seat behind a woman whose face is mostly concealed by a thick black scarf, revealing only her piercing blue eyes. Their gazes, which do not converge, turn in unison to watch a child running by in the street below – he smiles with his mouth, she with her eyes. As they each stand to get off the car they brush past one another, the camera cuts to power lines above where sparks fly, they go their separate ways.
In a similar vein to The Man Who Knew Too Much – in which an ‘ordinary’ couple is drawn into dealing with extraordinary life-and-death circumstances – characters that are falsely accused or implicated in crimes committed by another would become a recurring motif of Alfred Hitchcock’s illustrious oeuvre.