On the Jersey Shore

What: Jersey Boys

When: 20th June 2014

Where: Cineworld, Hammersmith, London

I’ve been a big fan of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons since the 1970s. I live in London. The musical of “Jersey Boys” opened in the West End of London in 2008. It has never occurred to me to go and see the musical. But here I was on the opening day of the “Jersey Boys” film release with my large bag of popcorn (and I mean large!) waiting for the film to start. Life is full of curious choices.

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I don’t like the scenery, I don’t like the set…….

I’m not exactly known for regular attendance at the cinema and I don’t watch a lot of films.

But when I do I tend to gravitate towards older titles – today’s cinema seems to have very little to offer.

I spent some time this last week with two older films both of which I would recommend – one of which I picked up when it was recommended on my Friend’s Page.

Jean Cocteau’s Orphee and A Matter of Life and Death which stars David Niven and Kim Hunter were the two. Of these, I think Orphee has the edge but I’d recommend you give both some of your time

All the Merry Little Elves Can Go and Hang Themselves…….

Bob Dylan learned everything he knows about film-making on the set of Sam Peckinpah’s "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid".

That’s not to say that Dylan is a good film-maker and certainly not to imply that he is the equal of Peckinpah. But the episodic nature of Dylan’s two feature films is drawn from Peckinpah’s masterpiece. Dylan appears as the mysterious and enigmatic "Alias" in the 1973 Western – a film where there is no narrative and our understanding of the film’s plot requires the outside knowledge of the Billy the Kid story to help us follow the plot development. In Dylan’s two cinematic efforts – 1978’s messy "Renaldo and Clara" and 2003’s beautiful mess "Masked and Anonymous" – we do not know the progression of the story and so we go away with more questions than answers.

James Coburn’s magisterial performance as Pat Garrett is at the heart of so much that is good about "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" which I viewed once more this evening as part of the British Film Institute’s Peckinpah series. His Garrett is a man in transition. In his younger life, he has trod the same road as William Bonney (Billy the Kid) but now as the West is changing, he has taken the shilling of the rich landowners and become a sheriff on their behalf to track down Bonney, played here by Kris Kristofferson. It is Garrett desire to survive the changes that is society is going through and to live to a good old age but he has failed to calculate how much this will cost him. At the culmination of the film when the Sheriff shoots Bonney in cold blood, he is panicked and also shoots at his reflection in a mirror as he sees something move. The inference is obvious – in killing Bonney, he has killed himself. We see nothing else of his life but know that he, himself, is ambushed and killed in like manner several years later. The landowners’ tolerate murder and rape and something inside of Garrett has died long before he takes that bullet. Garrett has become their man, their servant, their hired hand.

This is seen in two telling scenes near to the conclusion of the film. In short span, we see Garrett in bed with four prostitutes in a scene that is titilating but without love. A sexual longing is fulfilled but there is nothing more. By contrast, Bonney is involved in a scene of real tenderness and passion with the woman he holds dear. He is true to himself and still able to feel.

It is a film where the Sheriff doesn’t wear a white hat and the villain is not in black. The West is inhuman and murderous but Bonney is the one with some signs of redemption still sparking within him. Garrett will be the one to survive for a time but he has ceased to live.

This is a tour-de-force of a film which whilst you are unlikely to catch it in a cinema as I had the pleasure tonight, is well-worth picking up the Director’s cut on DVD. It is one of the truly great artistic moments which reflects on the transition from civil war to the Old West. In rock and country music, there is the Eagles’ Desperado and Paul Kennerley’s White Mansions and Legend of Jesse James (which interestingly both feature prominently the Eagles’ Bernie Leadon). On TV and much more light-heartedly, there is Alias Smith and Jones which can now be found on DVD. In film, there is Gods and Generals (for the Civil War) and …. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (for the Old West).

Meanwhile, watching carefully and observing is the curiously out-of-place figure of Bob Dylan, who produces a soundtrack which has all the sentimentality for the Old West which the film lacks. Perhaps, the actor goes away and broods until the day he can produce his own cinematic vision…. albeit with less consistency and recognition.

….. It’s a wonderful life…….

So Christmas Eve is here…….

Last night, I attended a showing of Frank Capra’s classic, "It’s A Wonderful Life" at the British Film Institute. This Jimmy Stewart film really does age well and no matter how often I see it still gets me right there. There’s something special about seeing it on the big screen too. I don’t go to the cinema often but the BFI have drawn me out twice in one week – first to see Tyrone Power in "The Mark Of Zorro" and then for "It’s A Wonderful Life". They do sterling work and a night out there is always a good time.

James Stewart in "It’s A Wonderful Life"

Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone in "The Mark of Zorro" 

They don’t make them like that anymore……..

I was involved with "An Evening with Roger Moore" at the British Film Institute yesterday. The evening was split into two sessions and looked at Sir Roger’s work in television, for the most part. So in the first section we looked at some of Mr Moore’s classic TV perfomances and in the second Roger chatted about that period of his life. Well, Roger is a good interview and, unlike on Mr Ross’s television show last week, when allowed to talk he has some fascinating stories to tell. His memory for detail at 81 (today! Happy Birthday, Sir Roger) is quite astounding. But for me the highlight by a country mile was watching episodes of The Saint and The Persuaders on the large cinema screen. Great, great, television, tremendous scripts and larger than life performances fron Roger Moore and his cohort in the latter, Tony Curtis. These programmes are so evocative of watching them in my youth so I find it hard to be critical but I just don’t think you can make television like this anymore.

There was talk a little while ago of reviving The Saint for a 4th (?) attempt on television, if they do then they must do it well. It is a shame that Leslie Charteris’ books are out of print and that haloed stick man is seen so little these days but "The Saint" is more than just a brand and a logo. If they remake it they must do so with an eye on Charteris unlike the Val Kilmer film of a few years ago which took the name and the image but none of the content. As I personally own all of the Charteris’ books and helped administrate his charity "The Saint Club" for a couple of years, I have a vested interest in this. Similarly, with The Persuaders but with that title there is no guide book as it was created for the televison and didn’t run long and it is perhaps permanently left alone. There was talk a heartbeat ago of a revival with Steve Coogan which sounded wretched and hopefully this has been forgotten.

So, thank you brave Sir Roger for your derring-do. It still has a place in our hearts.

Roger Moore, yesterday

and some years ago………..