Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Doors

Listening to The Doors In Concert album, the Absolutely Live LP portion of the CD, and the remarkable Celebration of the Lizard suite performed at the Aquarius Theater in LA, July 1969. Along with The End from the first album, it's probably my favourite 13 minutes worth of The Doors on record. Oliver Stone recreated the suite for the film and it's the most thrilling part of the movie... Speaking of The End, the live cut on disc 2 of In Concert, recorded at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968 is also terrific. I love Morrison's weird little tangents ("Ensenada, the dog crucifix, the dead seal, ghosts of the dead car's son") and the band are in stellar form effortlessly following Morrison where he goes. I imagine by '68 the band could reconfigure the song into whatever shape Morrison required on the night...

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Love In the Afternoon

I watched Eric Rohmer's 1972 film Love In the Afternoon yesterday and the first hour of bedtime last night was spent pondering the question whether Bernard Verley's character (pictured below) would stray from his wife again or whether his dark afternoon of soul had finally scared him straight ? I tend to lean towards the former, perhaps because I don't particularly like Frederic by the end of the film. One aspect of the film I enjoy is how my opinion of the two lead characters mutates over the course of the film - at the beginning I like Frederic - I like his life, his smart, beautiful wife, his young family, his legal business (his secretaries!). In contrast, I find Zouzou's Chloe troublesome, like an agent provocateur to be carefully managed. But by the end of the film, my allegiances have shifted - I very much like Chloe and am sympathetic to her needs, while I find Frederic rather pathetic... Incidentally, I love the film's brilliantly incongruous credit music, which sounds like an early moog workout. You hope that a check of the credits would yield a "name" (Bernard Parmegiani lent his music to Walerian Borowczyk for some of his early shorts) but Love in the Afternoon's composer, Arié Dzierlatka doesn't ring a bell, and there's little information to be found about him...

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Part Two)

My final post on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which I finally finished last night. I read this book in fits and starts which I regret - the novel is short enough to read over the course of an afternoon and might have benefited more for it... Overall, I thought it was fine, it compares badly to Blade Runner - being one of my favorite films, Scott's picture could not be easily relegated to the back of my mind. My biggest dislike in the book was the Mercerism religion that's interwoven throughout the book - I felt this PKD's ideas on this point were vague and confused. Perhaps my favorite episode in the book - which is not in the film ironically enough - is when Pris pulls the legs off a spider just to see if it could still move, a very powerful and cruel moment that quite effectively stacks the deck against the runaway androids...

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


I’m just past the halfway mark of Season 1 of 50’s police series Naked City and by now I have acclimatized to seeing oblivious New Yorkers gawking into the camera when filming calls for a street scene. It’s a nuisance every film maker suffers at some stage I suspect, and it put in mind Chaplin’s very funny 1914 Keystone short Kid Auto Races at Venice where Chaplin’s tramp constantly strolls thru the field of vision of a film camera covering a go-cart race. One could be a little charitable towards the Tramp – film cameras were still new-fangled things even by 1914, although he’s rather brazen about it even after his rough handling by Henry Lehrman’s furious director. If you haven’t seen this one before be sure to check it out, it’s six minutes of wonderful Silent comedy…

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Do Screenwriters Dream of Electric Sheep ?

When it comes to reading fiction, I try to keep the rule – if I've seen the film, I’ll skip the book, but there can be value in breaking this rule: at the moment I’m reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ? and it’s illuminated an exchange of dialogue from Blade Runner which has always puzzled me somewhat.

Deckard: "It's your birthday. Someone gives you a calfskin wallet. How do you react ?"...
Rachel: "I wouldn't accept it. Also I'd report the person who gave it to me to the police."

Rachel’s response in the film seems extreme and draconian, but it has more resonance in Dick’s book, where Earth’s animal species are virtually depleted, and what animals are left are coveted, cherished and change hands for large sums of money. This theme of the book had fallen by the wayside by the time Blade Runner’s screenplay was locked down and makes the Voight-Kampff test question about the calfskin wallet feel just a little too idiosyncratic for its own good. Similarly, Leon's line in the film: "I've never seen a turtle. But I understand what you mean" makes him sound a little infantile. But in the context of the book, his admission is perfectly understandable. The perils of adaptation !

Friday, 13 February 2015

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep ?

I've seen Blade Runner in all its various permutations over the years but only now am I getting around to reading Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? I've only scratched the surface of the book but the differences between Dick's novel and Scott's film are already considerable. However one line of dialogue from the book made me smile - during Dekard's first visit to Rosen Industries (or the Tyrell Corp in the film), Rachel remarks on the company's rare and highly coveted, live owl: "All our purchases are from private parties and the prices we pay aren't reported." She added, "Also we have our own naturalists; they're now working up in Canada. There's still a good deal of forest left, comparatively speaking, anyhow. Enough for small animals and once in a while a bird." As soon as I read the line I thought of Blade Runner's original ending where Dekard and Rachel have escaped Los Angeles for the more pleasant climes of Montana.... or perhaps Canada. The line I quoted above doesn't legitimize that disastrous ending the studio grafted onto the film, but for fans who still find some worth in this much maligned version of Blade Runner, it might make it at least bearable...

Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Adventures of Prince Achmed

Just watched The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Lotte Reiniger's wondrous 1926 German silhouette animated film. In the film, a young Arabian prince is whisked away on a flying horse to do battle with mythological creatures, and with the help of Aladdin and the Fire Mountain Witch, thwart the plans of an evil sorcerer and claim the love of his life. This is absolutely beautiful stuff, with delicate, fluid animation, and vibrant backdrops and textures that anticipate psychedelia by some 40 years. Despite the exotic Middle East setting, this is unmistakably Germanic - it very much feels like a bergfilme and some of the backdrops reminded me of the romantic landscape paintings of Caspar David Friedrich. Jean Renoir called this a masterpiece and it's entirely deserved.