Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Last Hurrah and Indiana Jones mark 4

The last day of February ended with the feeling that I had, on a fine balance, passed the test set for each day. A good combination of project work, enjoyment and other activities. The other activities did not include a walk or much house work, but I did a number of little jobs but which did not amount to balancing the food enjoyment of the day

I considered going out for a bacon roll but decided on a brunch using the new grill plate which required assembling, lightly greasing the top plate and the eight individual under grill pans before switch on with the expected brief smoking, the cooling, then washing and drying before commencing a first trial cook. I had a medium to small portion of piece of peppered steak, accompanied by two small pieces of already cooked gammon, two eggs, one sliced tomato and one sliced onion. I started everything at the same time, prepared to eat individually as items cooked but was able to try them at the same time. The steak was cooked on the top plate and was about right with perhaps another few minutes but no more. The eggs in contrast were over done but fitted well into two of the individual small cooking plates and were easy to remove without breaking. I will try another time on the flat area of the grill plate. The tomato and the gammon together with the onion were topped off on the top plate and perhaps the onion need to go in earlier. I must try some mushroom, scrambling the eggs, some hash browns and cheese on small cuts of bread although this will be part of a sliced finger roll. I will save bacon for the bought out rolls, I nearly forgot heating up a small portion of baked beans. When in the mood I will try some thing more imaginative.

In the evening I created a bed of lettuce and cucumber pieces with some French dressing and then covered with pieces of the previously cooked and now cold mackerel mixed with prawns peeled from shell. I had not been looking forward to the cold fish having been unable to separate into two meals when removed from freezer and defrosted and cooked on the same day, but the combination worked well so that the mackerel did not overpower everything else. Staying up until three am there was a midnight soup in a cup and a finger roll filled with slices of gammon and peppered mustard. A banana, grapes and portion of Lemon Tort comprised the sweets. Another admission has to be a can of caffeine and sugar free Pepsi cola.

The film find of the day was a showing of the Spencer Tracy performance in the film the Last Hurrah, from a book written in 1956 by Edward O Connor and which was a best seller in its day. The book is believed to have been based on the former Mayor of Boston James Michael Curley. Both characters were of Irish descent with working class backgrounds.

Mayor Curley became a working class hero where he and a political associate served a short prison sentence for fraud in 1904, having served as a member of the Massachusetts state House of representatives 1902-1903 and then become an Alderman, they had sat the civil service examination to enable two men in their district to get jobs as postmen with the Federal Government. The going to prison created a dark reputation for political opponents who exploited the incident during his subsequent election campaigns.

He was elected to the US House of Representatives 1911 to 1914 and was first elected Mayor of Boston in 1914 until 1918, returning in 1922-1926, 1930-1934 and 1946-1950. In 1937 and 1940 one of his former party political friends defeated him for the Mayoral nomination, which is an indication of the love hate reputation developed for him within the party as well as those supporting the Republican Party.

The reason for this is the scandals throughout his political life, During his tenure as Governor of the State 1935-1937 the state limo was involved in several accidents, he was accused of the sale of pardons to state convicts, and the appointment of scores of poorly qualified individuals to public office. The media stories led to the Democratic leadership failing to endorse his candidacy for the Senate in 1936. However he was back in favour in 1943, elected to the United House of Representatives and serving for four years.

and a Member of the US House of Representatives 1943-1947. In 1943 he was convicted on a felony indictment for influence peddling from his involvement for influencing peddling to secure defence contracts, but using the slogan Curley gets things done he won his fourth term as City Mayor. He was convicted of a further offence during this last period as Mayor and continued to hold the office while he was in prison. Despite these serious failings he remained worshipped in the city and when he died he received one of its biggest funerals, two statues and his former home is now an historical site. He had nine children by his first marriage but his wife and seven of the children all died before him. One son became a Jesuit priest.

In the novel the Mayor is a colourful character with a dark past aged in his 70‘s and a widower who explains to his nephew, a journalists, the realities of political life and election campaigning as he attempts another term as the Mayor. However in a reminder of the last days of Margaret Thatcher recently viewed, his methods are no longer acceptable and he is defeated by an unknown political inexperienced Republican with a good War record, smart appearance and good manners. He has a heart attack soon after the defeat and city in mourns someone whose time was past.

The film follows closely the story of the book, I am told. The role was originally planned for Orson Wells but while away one of his team turned it down, some thing which Wells regretted and I imagine he would have played the role in a darker way than he much loved Spencer Tracy. Pat O’Brien and Basil Rathbone also featured in the John Ford Film and Jeffery Hunter played the nephew journalist. Although popular in the city, former Mayor and Governor, Curley had quickly disappeared from national interest, but the book and the film helped to soften his image although the film link with the individual and the city was denied at the time.

In contrast to a film about the realities of political life in the US city, I watched the fourth of the films in the Indiana Jones series bringing back the team which created the first in 1981 Harrison Ford as Indiana and Karen Allen his former lover who in the latest India Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, discloses her son, is in fact his child. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg with George Lucas one of three producers.

The first film cost $20 and made over $380 million with nine Oscar nominations and winning five in 1982. Two years later a prequel was released which met with mixed reviews but which also made a profit of over $350 million. There was then a gap of five years before the third film which featured Indiana as a young man as well as his current age and featured Shaun Connery as his father. The film cost twice the original at $55 but made over $400 profit and was considered to be the last, except that public pressure on Spielberg, Lucas and Ford for another continued.

It was decided to set the new film in 1950’s so that the Chronological age of Harrison in the series also matched his age in real life that is someone in their mid sixties. The setting also provided the opportunity to make the villains the Russians and make use of the idea about aliens and space ships current at the time (and since).

The enemy is headed by Cate Blanchette, a million miles away from her role in Lord of the Rings, as a villainous Stalin era fanatic wanting the ultimate brain controlling ability. The film is set in the era when the Soviets were known to have developed truth drugs and were experimenting with mind control techniques and which were used in the Korean War. There is the Michael Caine film the Ipcress File in which scientists are captured, brainwashed and rendered ineffective and the original Manchurian Candidate in which the son of a prominent political family is brainwashed while serving in the Korean War with other members of his platoon, to return with everyone saying the he is a hero saving their lives and this leads him to becoming public and political figure and leading to his attempting to assassinate the President of the United States.

The film opens is an excellent fast moving action sequence in which Indiana and his friend played by Ray Winstone as a long standing British agent are captured by a Russian military group complete with US army style vehicles and outfits and taken to a secret but poorly guarded store of secrets papers and objects in the middle of the Nevada desert. Ray has in fact sold out the information in the hope that he will be able locate an object which he recovered for the US Government and which has importance both in terms of the mind control project and locating the city of gold known as El Dorado, Winstone’s interest. When they enter vast store everything is in numbered boxes but Indiana thinks of an ingenious way to locate the boxes whose contents has intrigued him. It proves to be the remains of an being from beyond the known earth. I choose my words carefully as will be revealed later. They are looking for something which the box does not contain.

Indiana escapes but finds himself in a nuclear test site in desert where a small town has been created to see the effects of a the explosion which unfortunately is about to take place. Fortunately he closes himself in a lead covered fridge and is blown clear, manages to get out and is decontaminated, the first of several stretches of credulity in the film, which never takes itself seriously. As a consequence of his involvement albeit unwillingly Indiana is forced take a prolonged holiday from his university position and he is about to go off when he is approached by the son of his former lover and told that an old colleague has disappeared after discovering a crystal skull. He passes a letter and a document an ancient picture language and this sets them off to Peru pursued by the Russians. They find the skull but are captured by the enemy who also have captured his former lover and the young mans. Mother. The skull has powers and under its influence it tells Indiana to where to return it. Before reaching the destination there are various exciting adventures which include a drop down not one but three large water fall drops, escaping killer ants, a killer native tribe and several confrontation with the Russians. The film is full of references to other films of the period with the young playing James Dean in the Wild Ones. The film also touches on the beliefs/legends that many advances in human development were in fact passed on knowledge from superior beings. What they find is not a city of gold but the treasure of knowledge in the form beings with the power to communicate through dimensions of space and time. The film ends with Indiana and his former lover marrying in the presence of their son.

The film cost nine times the original to make and grossed nearly $800 million dollars so as before was popular at the cinema but received mixed reactions from the critics. At times what the film makers described as great fun seemed very silly, On one hand the lastest technology was used creating in effect a video game in which the actors subsequently participated to provide the human face. Harrison Ford is said to have undertaken many of the stunts, to prove was an old man can do, although he admitted to keeping himself fit and that it took two weeks of intense effort to relearn to crack the bullwhip again. There were some good touches and ideal fare late on a Saturday night although it would have been more enjoyable if I had drank a bottle of Asti or several beers. John Hurt played his old colleague who they rescue and participated in the latter part of the adventure. Jim Broadbent plays the University Dean, friend and protector of Indiana when the FBI and the Un-American Activities investigators misunderstand the position. Sean Connery was invited to provide another link between the films as Indian’s father but declined offering the lame excuse that he found retirement too enjoyable.

Las Marieposas

I hope this will become more than a ramble among thoughts and words and through the lives of others I will find out more about the person I have become and have been.

Throughout my knowledge of their lives, my aunties lit wax lights on a bed of oil, in supplication for blessings. My recollection is that they were called "marieposas" although I never knew the spelling and I believed the English translation was "light to Mary." Earlier in the evening I discovered that Las Marieposas is the Spanish for the Butterflies, and my only previous association with a place of butterflies was on a tour of Corfu, in a valley filled with Butterflies in their tens of thousands.

It was not until late last year that I caught the final part of a showing of the film, "In the time of the Butterflies," and immediately added to my list of DVD's to hire before I die. The title refers to three sisters who were murdered by former Dominican Dictator Trujillo in 1960 and who were known for their opposition activities as Las Marieposas.

The DVD arrived on Saturday and later that evening, already a little angry sad after another pathetic and contemptible performance and insult to fifty thousand loyalty stretched fans from Newcastle Football club, (we lost 2.0 at home again, despite a fit Michael Owen), I decided to view the film as a consolation and immediately regretted because of the pain and frustration experienced. (OK so I have a masochistic streak and sometimes enjoy the suffering but not in this instance).

The film is based on the book by Julia Alvarez. Her parents escaped the murderous tyranny of the three decades of Trujillo dictatorship in Dominica between 1930 and 1960. The film is a tribute to the three remarkable sisters who were murdered on his instructions after they had visited their husband in prison, in 1960 on the assumption that it would reduce the threat to his rule. It is said that this had the opposite consequence igniting the country against the man and the regime and he was assassinated six month later, but also separately alleged as a consequence of the US intervention with the provision of arms.

The film is a fictionalised account of their lives and I have no knowledge how accurate was the book, although some detailed research is likely to have occurred before the lives and the deaths of the three sisters became a United Nations symbol of the abuse against women with International recognition on the fatal day when they were beaten and strangled to death.

Why have they been singled out from the thousands who were tortured and murdered during the 30 years regime of a man originally trained as a Marine by the Americans? It is said that he slaughtered 17000 Haitians, who share the Island, over a territorial claim. At the end of the film there is a note that 30000 political opponents, and anyone who stood in his way, were killed, about one day. However, that he survived for so long indicates the US approach that whatever his domestic activities, creating one of the major personal fortunes in the world by subverting incoming funds and a personal nationalization of land and business, he was their man in the fight against communism, as he was to the church of Rome, although towards the final years, the church condemned the continuing atrocities and it appears that individual priests became associated with rebel activity.

Finding out the extent to which the film mirrored the lives of the three sisters, (the fourth was not murdered with the others, survived, and acts a custodian of the museum in their honour), led me to one official site and several internet histories.

The family appears to have established themselves during the last years of direct American involvement before Trujillo came to power. Their father owned farming land, a shop, coffee mill, meat market and rice factory in a town of Santiago called Tambroi, The film portrays the family as living a rural existence, but having influence with the local governor, and being part of the society which attended "court" functions. The four daughters, whose births spread from 1924 to 1936 attended a Catholic boarding school, three at the same time and some went on to university education, married men who actively opposed the regime and had families.

The eldest Patria Mercedes was born 27th February 1924 and did not attend the boarding social until she was 14, (1938) so that the film view that the girls had to fight to be educated appears valid, although parental concern about their welfare away from home was understandable as they would have become aware of the growing network of spies and informants, and the repressive nature of the regime. Patria (fatherland) appeared destined to become a nun but married at the age of 17 to a farmer and had four children, one of who died before the age of one year. A mother and devout Catholic her concern is said to have been for the future of her and other children in the country.

Born two years later on March 12th Minerva Argentina was 12 years when she commenced her education, but was already home schooled and is said to have been able to recite French verse at seven years. She remained in education throughout World War II and went to the University of at Santa Domingo when she met her future husband and a political activist. Her left political interest went beyond her homeland and she is said to have been a great admirer of Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution. She had two children. Maria Teresa was the youngest, born in 1936, therefore attended the school after her sisters, attended the Liceo de San Francisco de Macoris where she studied Mathematics which she continuing at the university, and then marrying and engineer in 1958 and giving birth to a son a year before her murder. She appears to have thrown herself wholeheartedly into active political work during her short adult life also marrying a political activist.

Minerva Mirabal is said to have been the first of the sisters to become involved in the underground movements to overthrow the government. She made friends at the school with someone whose relatives had been arrested, tortured, and killed by Trujillo's men. Even as a young girl, Minerva was very rebellious, and based her actions on her own judgements of right versus wrong. Minerva, a patriotic liberal, understood politics and aspired to study law. In the 1940's, she met Pericles Franco Ornes, the founder of the Popular Socialist Party. He was a known anti-trujillista and had been jailed various times for his political activities. Other influences on Minerva's growing anti-Trujillo sentiments included leftist literature and the illegally intercepted radio stations from Cuba and Venezuela that objectively discussed the political situation in the Dominican Republic

The family confrontation with the dictator does not appear to have emerged until 1949 when the youngest was only 13 years. The family received an invitation delivered by the local commander to attend a social function with the President, but left before him because of the weather conditions which so angered the man that he had their father arrested and imprisoned, and two daughters were arrested and questioned about their political activities. The film suggests that the dictator had lecherous designs on Minerva and that her open opposition to him and his regime attracted and to an extent protected her from subsequent summary execution. To me the fact that the two sisters were questioned about the political activities indicates that perhaps the invitation was a set up to get them away from the area where they had influence and support.

The nature of the regime and the man came again came to the fore in their lives, in the early 1950's, when they were arrested because it was said that their father had not bought a book about the President. It is suggested that the President, already aware that this girl was a threat to him, used the issue as an excuse to remind her and her family of his power. He is also reported to have intervened next when during Minerva's study of law at the university after she wrote a paper on basic human rights and the Dominican situation. This suggests that the teachers were required to draw the attention of the dictatorship to the views and activities of the students

(Of course this is something which all governments do. They have sympathetic supporters monitoring students, on the look out for those who can be recruited into the fold and those who are potential enemies. This is understandable. At present families of those murdered in our most recent terrorist activity are demanding explanations why two of the four bombers who had come to the attention of the authorities at one point were not then closely monitored. Personally I can understand the concern of the families and the political opportunism of others, but the route they appear to want the government to take, is to introduce the psychological screening of all children at the age of 5 years and then 11, and perhaps at 18 before entry into university education. Perhaps also before marriage and before entering any government financed employment at national or local level. Then there would have to a comprehensive surveillance system for everyone else, especially those who could be influenced against the state, such as at the present time all Muslims, and all other young people who might carry knives or become part of gun using gangs, in addition to everyone who has committed any kind of offence, or has received help for a psychological condition, or has become addicted, and with a higher level for those who have been to prison or in specialist psychiatric institution. Hang on isn't that what Hitler, Stalin, Chairman Mao did? Perhaps the surveillance should also be extended to any form of behaviour which deviates from a norm decided by the media from to time perhaps by a telephone/text in vote with Simon Cowell and Alan Sugar adjudicating? You think I am kidding?)

The President did try and prevent the further university education of Minerva but she was able to graduate in 1957, thus spanning the period of my own secondary education, the reading of the war crimes trials, going to work as a clerk and hating every second of the experience, although I had taken the decision to leave school and to take the position. At one level Minerva and I were already following the core approach of Rashnamurti, listening to our inner voice and Catholic originated conscience to what was right and what was wrong. Because I lacked academic and social self confidence, I knew I would be lucky to pass the five Ordinary level subjects that I had sat, and had taken the first available job which was not dependent on the results, except that passing would bring some immediate monetary improvement. I had been right because I only scrapped through. With hindsight of course my position would have been very different if the schools had understood about dyslexia, or I had lived in the era of being able to use word processes and the internet.

It was at the university she met her husband Manuel (Manolo) Aurelio Tavarez Justo already opposed to the dictator as was the husband of the younger sister. It was on June 14th 1959, that the underground opposition became known to the world, but not to me, when troops from the Dominican Liberation Movement, made up of exiled Dominicans living abroad, were sent to the northern towns of Constanza, Maimón and Estero Hondo under Commander Enrique Jimenez Moya. Dubbed the Luperion Invasion, this attempt to topple the dictatorship was halted by Trujillo's army and air force, but it did ignite the flame of rebellion in the Dominican people at large, or so it said.

Luperion was the name of a political group organized for internal resistance: The 14th of June Movement. Manolo, Minerva's husband was the president of this group. A short time after the failed Luperion Invasion, the Dominican Liberation Movement organized another conspiracy which continued into 1960. On January 10, 1960, they met on a farm in Mao, Valverde belonging to Conrado Bogart. The regime apparently knew of this meeting because all who attended were arrested. Before a year was to end the three sisters had been slaughtered. They become heroines.

Their last year has special significance for me, because it was during the space of only a few months in 1959 that having failed as a Local Government Clerk and then as an Olivetti typewriter salesman I had got myself a job sending out Christmas cards at the Houseman's bookshop attached to the Pacifist weekly Peace News and became instantly involved in the direct action civil disobedience movement.

Unlike the Mirabel sisters and their husbands, I was under no threat or persecution and lived in a liberal democratic society. Our circumstances were so different. During the period when the sisters were released from prison I was serving my six months knowing I could leave at point if I wished. With weeks of my release while debated what to do next, they died.

The reason why I did what I did have previously been given as New Testament Catholicism and the reading of the War Crimes Trials reports, the effects of becoming interested in the blues, in racist persecution and the history of slavery, in work of Father Trevor Huddleston in South Africa in addition to which there was Danilo Dolci, "the Sicilian Gandhi," who I also heard speak in London and Gandhi himself in the India struggle for independence coming across a first and limited edition of Satyagraha in second hand bookshop. Another way of looking at my involvement is to say that I was a mixed up young man, uneducated, uncertain of what he believed in, lacking self confidence and unable to get a girl friend, and therefore ripe for the first group who offered personal salvation. Would I have done any of it had a girl taken me on before?

What did the action achieve for me? The consequence were positive than negative. Did the action contribute to anything other than my own future? I have since doubted that it did.

I have also considered that if born two decades ago in similar circumstances and with similar genes would I have become a Muslim suicide bomber today? I would like to think not, but who can say? My reason is the belief that the New Testament and all the other writings about ends and means and violence begetting more violence, whatever its justification, are right. I know it as others have known it and others after me will. For the individual this means passive acceptance and self sacrifice. But when confronted with harm of one upon another and I can do something, how do I cope with doing nothing or pretending there is no such problem. And if I feel that way then what is the duty of those who govern in my name and with my consent? And what is my attitude towards those who carry out the function of the state to defend and to protect?
The Minerva sisters supported armed intervention in a situation when only armed intervention and uprising could be effective in terms of immediate toppling of a regime, and his assassination subsequently appears to confirm their conviction. I never have supported violent overthrow within a democracy, and quickly came to the Annie Besant view that leadership by many of those involved in the non violent revolutionary movements was to be even more feared than the actions of democratically elected politicians.

Even though Annie Besant is said to have come to support Gandhi's viewpoint, it is not clear to me that any of his actions, directly led to Indian independence with the contribution of the sub-continent to the defence of democracy during World War II and the cost of maintaining the Empire by force the greater reasons. And what happens in every violent revolutionary, the battle for power and more bloodshed! It happened in Dominica and it is happening in Iraq.

I have also written recently about the nature of fear and courage, and the ability of the professional soldier and non combatant to overcome their fear and face the bullet. I have been in a couple of such situations in my life, although death, in all but one instance was more likely to be from a prolonged self inflicted torture of the mind. My own experiences and circumstances cannot be compared to those of Sophie Scholl and of the Mirabal sisters. What interests me next is the view of Rashnamurti on such issues as the use of violent and non violence action as a proactive measure, but also as a defence?

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Bergman's The Serpent's Egg and Berlin

Preliminary sketch notes about my knowledge of Berlin, my experience of Germany, the rise of Fascism, Bergman and the Serpent's Egg, together with the Christopher Isherwood viewpoint

My knowledge of Germany developed through my childhood as my aunts prayed in our garden air raid shelter, and then looking at the crater of the demolished house after a rocket bomb fell in a nearby road. A relative who returned from a Prison camp liberated by the Russians said they were worse than the Germans. An uncle and his wife returned from serving five years as part as the allied forces reconstructing West Germany into a prosperous democracy, marvelling at the motorway net work and whispering to adults about the reality of a black market and politically and emotionally divided nation

And then I read the official reports of the war crimes tribunal on Belsen and Auschwitz and thought I understood what the whispers had been about. A couple of years later I saw Laurence Harvey, Julie Harris and Shelley Winters in a recreation of Christopher Isherwood's story "I am a Camera" from Goodbye to Berlin, made into a play and then the film released in 1955 when I was sixteen and four years away from trying to be a writer on one of the two portable Olivetti typewriters I managed to sell during my ignoble half year as the training course star pupil and subsequent failure as a sales person.

Laurence Harvey was not my idea of being a writer, but I was instantly attracted by the nightclub sleaze world in inhabited by Sally Bowles, although at the time having no idea that the central character was a homosexual like his creator. I did understand something of the juxtaposition between the existentialist lives of the central characters and the rise of Hitler and the fascists, but it was more the emotional recreation of a time than the historical factual reality. This came later

It was not until 1964 that I acquired a Pan edition of William L Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich for twelve and sixpence, a good buy for a 1400 unabridged academic history. I valued everything Allan Bullock had to say and his recommendation that this was the one book to place in the hands of anyone who wanted to know what happened in Germany 1930-1945 remains even more valid today.

A year before I had travelled by train through Germany to Stockholm but my experience was travelling at night and being a little spooked by my memories of what I had read. In prison in 1961, we had been allowed to have sent in Teach Yourself German, as we had this idea of going Munich and to Berlin and committing some non violent civil disobedience action at the boarder between East and West just to make the point that we opposed the worker's and the capitalist bomb. In 1965 as part of a grand European Tour, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France in three weeks in my mini estate, my male work colleague and I camped by the Rhine and entered a large beer tent where Germans made spaces for us to sit with them a drink enormous pints of beer singing songs we did not understand. We then did not find the municipal camp in Munich and motored on until we found one in the Black Forest and then entered an Inn where we were looked at closely and we felt we were the subject of everyone's conversation as we gambled at menu items but had a good inexpensive hot meal. Later we stayed with a German young woman and her mother at their flat in Geneva, who I knew from college days, and that is the extent of my reality experience about Germany and its people for over a decade.

I went to Munich in my imagination in 1980 through Time Life and where the frontispiece is of beer tankard upon beer tankard followed by an evocative mixture of pictures and words got the measure of the city and its people. There have been few, if any, films about life in Germany before and after the two world wars that I have not seen, and since the birth of Sky TV, on its history and documentary channels.

Another dimension of early Sky was that you were able to pick up German TV channels and these were more interesting to watch late at night and sometimes during the day when they had their Parades and Festivals, but still I hankered to be a carefree artist in Berlin, especially after finding that most people took off all their clothes in the main public park and that something of the twenties night life continued. I had seen the work of Kurt Weil recreated on stage and on TV and then Lisa Minnelli and Noel Gray had brought us Cabaret to the screen, in 1972, a work which remains vivid a portrait, and which I watch on DVD at least once a year.

But only last midweek did I view Bergman's the Serpents Egg made in 1976, the most odd and disappointing of his score of films experienced over the past year. The main language of the film is English with an unconvincing David Carradine as an alcoholic Jewish Trapeze artist who drinks himself into stupor for some inexplicable reason and Liv Ullmann as a failed circus performer trying her hand at being an oversize Sally Bowles. The film follows the same path as I am a Camera, Cabaret and others, people being decadent oblivious at first and then pretending not to notice, until shortages, and mounting street violence forces then to appraise what is happening to their neighbours, I like Carradine from his TV series mystic searches for enlightenment but he and this film is a mess. The last segment attempts to knit everything together with a kind of pre Joseph Mengele experimental doctor who both Ullmann and Carradine encounter. It is perhaps the darkest and bleak portrait of the time but it added nothing to my knowledge and experience.

I have one other brief experience of the German people, a party of local authority bigwigs from a twin town who I took on a coach trip to the largest in door shopping centre in Europe to meet its creator Sir John Hall who tried to convince them about the merits of his development despite my alerting beforehand that right and left had united to ban such a development from their city. I then had a drink with his son and son in law while the party went off to shop. Some came back early with their purchases for a drink and it was only then that I realised that if you excluded the language difference they were just same as any group of politicians representing the extremes of opinion and interests.

I still hope to go to Berlin and sit in the sun among others without any clothes and chat up a bird in a nite club hoping she is not a male transvestite!

Almodovar's The Law of Desire and Moulin Rouge

In contrast to the tranquillity of my mini break in Scotland I viewed the Law of Desire shortly before departure, an Almodovar film which engaged me more than anticipated. Having recently described how my prejudice against all things German had been forged by my childhood experience of rocket bombs, until individual encounters, spread over several decades, led me to understand the universality of human behaviour, it has taken just as many decades to discard the simplistic Freudian view of homosexuality, in part because of difficulties in understanding the development of my own sexual orientation, and need for celibacy. These are subjects for another occasion.

That the Law of Desire is a film about a selfish, creative, promiscuous, homosexual, Eusebio Poncela who juggles relationships, and does not understand until it is too late, the influence his behaviour has on a young man, played by a young Antonio Banderas, is an reflection of Almodovar's preoccupations. The specific sexual orientation is irrelevant because this is a film about the consequences of giving free reign to our instinctive passion to possess other human beings, and the destructive nature of jealousy when the object of that desire does not respond in the way we want of them. In the film the obsession leads to the murder of a rival and to suicide. Being Almodovar there are also stock diversions where the police are portrayed as corrupt incompetent fascists, and with the Catholic Church being predominated by paedophile priests. We also learn that the sister, Carmen Maura, was in fact a brother with the corrupting adults, a Father and a father. He has a sex change operation after their father dumps him for a new lover.

Usually I find Almodovar's wilder excesses, unnecessary to the point of irritating. and his work became for me that of an adolescent given too much fame and fortune for their own good, although most artists cannot resist the temptation to reproduce their successful work in continuous variation. On this occasion I was caught up and held by the performances of the main characters, in much the same way as I had on experiencing Carmen Jones again a few weeks before. During my stay in Scotland on a cold, windy and damp morning I viewed the DVD of Moulin Rouge. A film which I did not enjoy at first viewing in theatre because of the running commentary by two educated moronic youths attempting to impress their school girl friends, and because I had not read advance material about the nature of this interpretation of the Moulin Rouge as a can-can bordello turned into musical theatre where the first production is created by existentialist bohemians who believe in idealistic love and that the star courtesan can become a reborn virgin who meets a heroic end as in the best of operas. I then enjoyed a second viewing in theatre and have played the DVD and an additional material several times since purchase. I suspect just as I rate Tony Blair as a great Prime Minister, I am alone in having some sympathy for the Duke in Moulin Rouge, who has the means to buy the exclusive use of the star turn only to find that she has given her heart to a penniless poet and he like Banderas in the Law of Desire is driven to murder in order to eliminate his rival. I cannot condone the violence but I understand his feelings. Being a Hollywood movie for teenagers, he loses her body and her soul, and poet is destined to exploit his experience into a best seller. It is a good ending because in real life the poet would have sent out his conquest whoring to pay for their life style while he squandered his talent drinking with his companions and trying out the latest drugs. The Duke would have made the whore into a Duchess.

Creatives like priests should be celibate and if they must gratify sexual appetites they should restrict themselves to the occasional whore, or better still, and less expensive, to cream cakes. Today, none of my writing came easy and the rain lashing prevented the rabbits from coming above ground until hunger forced some to venture for a nibble. Fortunately the weather improved for an hour to enable me to purchase a cream apple turnover for elevenses, and a stack of Scottish pancakes, three of which I have just had for tea. They never taste the same as when I would buy what I could afford for two old pence a time, for breakfast, along with a mug of tea, on an early morning ferry between Dunoon and Gourock in the early sixties and which also seemed to take the long way round calling at Helensburgh and Killgregan, and having camped by the water in the grounds of the Youth Hostel at Strone point. In my case the wages of desire means that I stay fat

The Virgin and the Gypsy and Almost Famous

Yesterday evening, February 27th, 2009, on a TV channel I cannot remember, there was a showing of The Virgin and the Gypsy, based on the novel by D H Lawrence. As A young man in the early 1960’s I had read some Lawrence. In 1960 I acquired Sons and Lovers and had seen the film staring Dean Stockwell and Heather Sear, but cannot remember the film being shown again, although I did see both television serializations by the BBC in 1981 and 2003.

Kangeroo is one of least known works and I cannot remember anything about the story. The Trespasser was his second novel and apart from knowing this from a note on the back piece alleging that the female character is one of the most interesting of all his female characters, I also have no memory and do not believe I have read the novel again since it was acquired in 1961 as part of the reprinting by Penguin of many of his works to mark the thirtieth anniversary of his death. The Rainbow was acquired later in the 1970’s and it was not until 1961, a year after the original complete text was published that I acquired my copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover with its introduction by Richard Hoggart. The book was made into a film in 1955 which was banned by the Catholic Church in the USA, and then Sylvia Krystal starred in the 1981 version. I have also seen a French made film in 2006 which won an award at Cannes.

In 1969 Ken Russell produced his film, The Rainbow and then later Women in Love in which Glenda Jackson won the Academy Award for Best Actress. I will leave to another day, perhaps after re reading the novels I possess, writing about D H Lawrence in any depth, but for now I will mention that it is important to see a photograph of him as beardless young man and then the familiar portrait with one and which goes a along way to explaining his personal sexual orientation, and in his early travels he visited Monte Cassino in Italy and Malta, and he also taught as a school master at Croydon, a town three miles from my childhood home. It is important to also remember that in addition to his twenty novels and short stories he created twenty plays and books of poetry, including some collected editions after his death, sixteen works of non fiction, including four travel books with one on Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and that he was also an artist painter. He wrote a prolific number of letters with seven volumes published and that some sixty books have been created by others on his life and on his works, sometimes devoting a book to a book.

The Virgin and the Gypsy commenced life as the main short story in a collection of the same name. Two young women return home from a residential finishing school in Paris, and home is a vicarage set in the countryside close to water in what the girls call the north but is in fact said to be the Midlands. Their father is the divorced, his wife having run off, hence having the custody of the daughters and the home is shared by a vicious and unloving grandmother and an equally censorious unloving married sister of the vicar whose husband is severely hen pecked but shows traces of rebellion and his true nature. One sister is willing to adjust to her new life and has gained a position which takes her out of the home and she is at ease in the local society but takes to heart the criticism that the daughters have too much of their mother in them for their own and anyone else’s good. The other sister has an unfulfilled passionate streak who longs to experience forceful sexual passion. She is pursued by an uneducated and unsophisticated son of a local industrial millionaire, but takes up with married Honor Blackman who has moved into community on honeymoon with her officer lover who she intends to marry when his divorce is arranged. She is attracted to their uninhibited life style, and which include the man doing his share of the housework. She is the virgin and the gypsy is married with children, also an uninhibited and passionate couple where the wife tells fortunes and the gypsy is brooding and masculine and makes things to sell with his hands.

Maurice Denham plays the angry and frustrated Anglican vicar who is ambivalent towards his daughters, tending to be protective but unable to talk about their mother and finding it difficult to reconcile his feelings with his Christian beliefs. I had professionals experience of interviewing two vicars whose wives had left for other men and in both instances the issue was the custody of children as part of divorce proceedings. It was as a consequence of these experiences that I first understood the difficulties married churchmen can have over their marital relations and their parenting, but also the problems for their female partners and their children although these days the converse is likely to apply to some female clergy and their families. The issue is wider, children of teachers who are unenthusiastic about learning, children of police who are anti authority, children who are pacifist of servicemen and so on.

At Ruskin I also saw at first hand the interaction between brooding ex miners, steel workers and such like who also had brains and female Oxford undergraduates especially those studying English Literature and their DH Lawrence! Before Ruskin I had found that young women were always willing to talk and sometimes cry on my shoulder but I was always you are like a brother. I thought I was nice and some of those they went with unscrupulous users. Such is was and is life! Alas it was several years more before my situation changed.

And the film? The Gypsy saves the Virgin when the local dam collapses and gets his reward and then she goes off to London with the emancipated couple.

Earlier in the day the surprise was the film Almost Famous, the semi autobiographical Cameron Crow film which was not successful at the box office but which received four Oscar nominations and won the award for Cameron for original script. It is a good film as well as being the best portrait of life as a sixties rock band

The undoubted star is the performance of Patrick Fugit then 17/18 playing a 15 year old who becomes a rock reporter for the magazine Creem run by Lester Bangs, played in the film by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Patrick was recommended by his drama teacher for the part and was immediately recognised as looking appropriately young, awe struck and inexperienced of life, yet bright and observant. Cameron had wanted to make this film for some time but met with no enthusiasm until his success with Jerry McGuire. His mother was hired to assist both with the Frances McDormand and to ensure that the character played by Patrick came close to how Cameron’s mother remembered his adolescence. Mrs Crowe by any standards is a remarkable women who worked as a Psychology professor and family therapist, a peace activist and for worker‘s rights and who performed skits around the house and was known to go to work on occasions wearing a clown outfit. She would not have been phased when school identified her son has having attention deficit, hyper active problem or when he graduated from High School at fifteen having been two years younger than the rest of his class through the latter part of the education system.

At high school he had started to write reviews for the house magazine and by 13 he was writing for an underground newspaper, the San Diego Door which had employed Lester Bangs who went on to edit the National Rock magazine Creem. Cameron maintained contact and commenced to write for the magazine. In the film his work came to the attention of the Editorial staff of Rolling Stone without realising he was such a young and inexperienced person although it is understood that they did have direct contact and did know he was only 15 when they first employed him as a contributing reporter and he was given the opportunity to interview Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and the members of Led Zeppelin

At the age of sixteen Cameron was sent on a road trip of three weeks with the Allman brothers band and he interviewed the whole band and the road crew. He also adopted the approach of sitting unobtrusively observing what went on and Greg Allman became concerned that there was more to this young man being a reporter, insisting on seeing identification to prove he was not a police officer. He confiscated the recording tapes and it was only after representation to the President of their recording company, the tapes returned and the story published. This experience formed a core element of the film story.

Because existing music writers did not take to the hard rock bands, Cameron had an almost clear field in interviewing bands like Led Zepplin, The Eagles, King Crimson, Linda Ronstadt and Rory Gallagher. Cameron became a member of the full time staff as Contributing and then Associate Editor but when at the age of 20 the weekly moved from the West Coast to New York Cameron decided to leave although he has continued to contribute throughout he rest of his life to date.

There are several aspects of this experience which he decided to incorporate into the fictional story. The first is the approach of his mother who gave permission for his road travels on the strict understanding that he phoned her daily, avoided drugs and did not get into trouble. It is understood that splendid moments in the film when she communicates her position to hotel staff, musicians and the “Band Aid” Members are closer to the truth than might be assumed.

For the uninitiated, the “Band Aid” are not the groupies, often under age who often were more interested in having a tally to boast about rather like autographs, but young women, still often under age, who loved the music and provided the band with on the road comforts if wives and long standing girl friends were not available. They also enjoyed the use of drugs as well watching the concerts from the side stage. How far girls were sold between bands as one tour ended and another started I have no idea although in the film that three girls including Penny Lane are bet on a the twist of a card is believable.

Penny Lane, real film name Lady Goodman, who is said by Cameron to be an amalgam of girls that he knew. In the early sixties when campaigning and then at Ruskin, I knew several who had similar personalities, including one encounter when I was out for the day with a female friend friend, I met an artist I knew from the CND movement who said he was going to Mexico as Europe was dead, artistically speaking, and invited her to go with him, although they had just met and she hesitated and nearly did. In the film Penny decides she is going to Morocco for a year and asks Patrick playing Cameron if he will go with him and he nearly does. The aspects of Penny which Cameron wrote and Kate Hudson captures brilliantly is the sense for free spirit, I had another female friend friend who went off on her own to India for six months in between sixth form and university, and another who had dropped out of her undergraduate place at Oxford University to have a child and was off to Marrakesh. At one level there was no fear, a wonderful sense of being alive and joy which they shared with everyone and anyone and yet there was also intense and loyal affection which was more often than not abused. They would and did survive whatever their circumstances and the contrast between them and the often inarticulate and uneducated young girls in care, sometimes reported to the authorities as being out of control by their parents, and who ran off getting into one disastrous relationship or life style after another, could not be greater.

Cameron has disclosed that he lost his virginity early on and the scene in the film also struck me as authentic from direct knowledge of some the young women observed although in my instances I was over twenty one.

The Allman Brothers and other bands of the period become Stillwater, a newish group with some success on a road tour by coach who graduate to private planes after an upgrade in management and who regarded the embedded journalist with considerable opposition and hostility, denying the authenticity of his story at first. The scene when one of the band goes off in the search of real real and accepts an invitation to attend a drugs and sex party held by ordinary teenagers who feed him excessive quantities of acid and encourage him to jump when he considered flying of the roof of the house also has authenticity as does the greater part of the film, hence its critical success.

I only experienced the 2 hour version of the film and will look out for the extended version which has an additional 40 minutes. There are some 50 music tracks of which 17 are included in released sound track album which won a Grammy for compilation soundtrack. On the successful album are Simon and Garfunkel America, The Who, The Beach Boys, Rod Stewart,(seen live) the Allman Brothers, Elton John Led Zepplin, David Bowie(seen live), Cat Stevens, Clarence Clearwater, Thunderclap Newman and Nancy Wilson, Cameron’s wife. Other on the film sound track are Black Sabbath, Sleeleye Dan, Dr hook, Chicago, Neil Young, Jimmi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac, Buddy Holly, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, and Jethro Tull. The film also won a Golden Globe for Best Musical/Comedy.

I wrote this while listening to my favourite Tina Turner Album, Only the best: The Best, Private Dancer, I can’t stand the rain; What you get is what you see; What’s love got to do with it, Steamy Window, Nutbush Windy City, I don’t want to lose you, It takes two, Look me in the heart, Let’s stay together, Better be good to me, Way of the world, Typical Male, We do not need another hen, Addicted to Love, Be Tender with me Baby, Love Think and I want you near me.

I did not go for the weekend shop until 5 and at first I thought I and left the recharged battery too long before the road trial. I delayed going out because I had to wait in for a delivery of white card from staples having managed to get a reduced price which works out a £5 including delivery and a free sports bag with water bottle, headband and small towel. I decided on making a second visit to Tesco on the Newcastle Road in he hope that they still had packs of the 100 grams of salami for £1. Alas it must have been old stock prior to the devaluation of the pound against the Euro. Given the information that eggs are not the cholesterol hazard previously believed I bought six eggs for 82 pence and yesterday I notice that adjacent was the offer of 15 for £1. Where is the logic in this? I also found two toffee Cheese cakes(frozen) at £1 each and grapes cheaper than Azda. I stopped at Lidl on the way back for 200 grams of salami for £1.68, not the Italian quality I am used to but it will do. Lidl has a selection of special offers every Monday and Thursday sometimes food but also clothing, household, officer and entertainment. This time I noted a gill for only £12.50 which I had seen advertised before but not in stock. This comprises a large griddle plate which can also be used as a keep warm plate and then under the rings can be fitted up to eight small pans, each capable of taking an egg, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, ham and such like. Given eh price I decided there was little loose as my existing double quick grill had lost its coating and had become more difficult to clean, while this grill looked easier although was more fiddly and would take longer to cook. I left until Saturday to clean and use. I called in at Azda on the way home as I wanted to stock up on tinned veg, a lettuce, some meats. Until recently I had not seen any Southern fried chicken pieces as available at Morrison’s, but this time there was an offer of two carton for £5 each comprising seven pieces, providing four meals of three and four pieces which I usually enjoy with baked beans. For Sunday there is roast Pork Joint and for Saturday a nice think piece of peppered steak part of four pieces for £7, of which three went into the Freezer with the chicken. I remembered the re stocking of tinned vegetables. I have gone on off the small frozen packs for the time being, but I forgot the tinned rice. I bought a sweet melon and remembered the food bags for fridge or freezer. I had forgotten to supply the four pieces of Mackerel before putting in the freezer so had to defrost having two as a main meal and letting the other cool to fridge for a salad over the weekend. My one sin was to buy two packs of diet coke sugar and caffeine free, 16 cans for £4.

I had not accomplished as much work as planned given the other interest, including the result show for American Idol, but it felt a good day.

Fellini's Roma and Carmen Jones Carmen

Around1954/1955 I saw the film Carmen Jones for the first time with Dorothy Dandridge in the lead role. I was still at school and the aspect of the film which affected me was Pearl Bailey singing "beat out dat rhythm on a drum". It uncorked an attraction to wild music at least that is how I regarded jazz in the days before rock and roll, until I understood that considerable organised musicianship was required to create the spontaneity. I bought the LP as soon as I stated work and played and played until I knew all the contents.

I cannot remember when I first saw Carmen, the Opera, but I believe it was with the aunties locally in Croydon. I now have a number of versions on video, including three 90min recordings of the same production but with different lead singers. I also have the Regina Resnik, Joan Sutherland performance on CD;

I resurrected my interest in the past fortnight because a new production called CarMan is coming to the Newcastle Playhouse. I thought I had such a familiarity with the film because of the LP and seeing it on TV several times, and with the opera recordings and theatrical experiences that I decided to put myself to the test and write a film review before seeing the film, once more on mail order DVD. Of course I failed the test and had to resort to my reliable memory jogger, Wikipedia. I had known that Harry Belfonte had been dubbed, I had just forgotten the fact and the singer was Le Vern Hutchinson.

Fortunately my DVD player had not needed repair after all. I had gone to sleep in the afternoon while watching Fellini's Roma, and went to visit my mother leaving the disk in the machine and forgot about it and when I attempted to view again it would not load and I was too busy to arrange a repair as a I tried another DVD of my own without success. I decided to try the Carmen Jones Mail order library DVD and was able to watch the film, so it was not the machine. I soft wiped both the problem disks and they worked too, so belatedly for my piece about
Rome the city, I can now write about Roma, the film.

I like the film because it is a coherent and authentic work although set in the USA about Carmen who works in a parachute factory and where the bullfighter has become a prize fighting boxer.
Of course the music and singing in the opera is great but I have two reservations about most of the performance I have viewed. The first is the singing in French of a work about Spanish passion. This has always struck me an incongruous. Secondly, many of the female leads did not strike me as having that raw sex appeal which will make a man turn his back on a sweetheart, wife, family, and career, and then murder rather than accept he has been nut one more conquest for someone who like the bullfighter or boxer, likes the sport, and which has become a self destructive addiction.
I suspect more women, and men for that matter have the power within, irrespective of personal frame, but only dome project and then make use of what in the instance of Carmen was a lethal force. I only knew one Opera singer, who I was asked to drive to a Top of the Pops show because she knew he producer and he had promised that the camera would show her in the audience and for which she was wearing an amazingly short skirt even for the sixties, although the cameraman/ cameraman in those days had a titillating interest in young women in short skirts, or perhaps it was some visual editor or producer or director guiding to maintain and develop audiences. I digress, a little but this is an overall work about recreating past experience, and the image is appropriate for a Fellini film!
I have a greater recollection of when I watched Carmen Jones in a cinema theatre, than Roma which was issued in 1972 when I lived in Cheshire, and visits to the cinema were infrequent. Maybe I never have experienced at the cinema and it was a subsequent TV showing. I watched the film through this time without sleeping or a note book to subsequently work out the significance of images, having read some internet beforehand, I knew what to expect and look out for.
The main thrust of this documentary style montage without any story line, apart from inserting himself and his experiences, is to compare Rome of fascist wartime Mussolini with the sixties of hippies, bikers and when the buzz concept was alienation, and with references to Roman history and his own childhood.

It was one childhood experience which reminded of one of my own. Schoolteacher priests show pupils slides of ancient monuments and in the days before TV magic lantern shows were the thing, and I still have the one I acquired to show family event slides. In Roma, a slide of the bare back of a young woman, in bath costume, but this provoked a frenzied reaction from the boys who were told to avert their eyes. Around the same age the boys I went on school trip to a cinema at the park end of Oxford Street to watch a film about the life the previous Pope. It was a special morning show, we arrived late, and were accommodated in the managers viewing lounge at the back of the cinema. The film was a "Father Brown" story, I think, because I remember going to the Library for the books, except that the film was in French with subtitles and there was stunned silence at the time, although much commenting on the way back at a scene when a fly stopped briefly on a naked female breast. The contrast between the reaction of the Fellini schoolboys and the mixed audience of school children at the cinema sums up he difference between the English approach to sex and self expression and the Mediterranean people, and which includes the French.

Fellini has this attraction to bizarre looking women and brothels and in the film first draws an unkind picture of rampant men of all ages clamouring for their time with hard extrovert business women of the day and night, with two exceptions, the shyish, observing, rather bemused young man of himself, and the classy bright and sensitive "working girl" who agrees to going walk with him out, one morning, thus identifying himself as being different from everyone else. However his venom is focused on the hierarchy of the Catholic Church as an aging Italian Noble woman bemoans the loss of the previous relationship with the church, in a bizarre fashion of clerical habits thus indicating the belief that the church had become all fur coat and no knickers.

The film also confirms the belief which I expressed in the piece on Rome that Italians have nostalgia not for Mussolini the man or the brutality and acquiescence of the regime to Nazi doctrines, but for the sense of community and unit, and of getting things done which is government engendered. The film is rich in community activities and togetherness of war time activities and although there are interjected flashes of congregating hippies he appears to be sympathetic to police beating protestors and to an affluent diner who describes them as scum. The final sequence is a multitude of bikers roaring about the deserted streets of Rome making normal conversation impossible. It is evident that Fellini was not just reporting the alienation which many felt from society in the early seventies, he was expressing his own.

I have not researched or made any kind of special study, but it does seem to me that the Italians are more open and honest about what led and what happened in their country in the year of the reign of Mussolini than perhaps has been the situation in Germany, the UK and elsewhere in Europe, and we all have about the plight if other oppressed or starving, or sick people in other parts of the world since. I can never accept the indiscriminate bombing of non combatants by anyone in any circumstance. Did we really need to obliterate and maiming of German civilian populations, and when as now, we rightly condemn the former leader of Iraq for his use of weapons of mass destruction, does that put him in the same league as the US President who authorised the use of two atomic bombs, and would more have been used, if Japan had not surrendered? For those who argue that it is right to hold weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent and we would never use them in reality one has to accuse of being dishonest. If we have them we will use them in certain circumstances, and to argue that we have a God and one of his churches on our side. It is in the nature of Government, regardless of the form of government. I know it is irrational but I have a greater sympathy for a crazed for the behaviour of impulsively crazed soldier of Carmen, Carmen Jones and or in Iraq, Vietnam or where ever than I do for the Generals and Politicians who order them to unleash the devil

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Twenty Four Hours of Oscars

For almost all my life after I was about six years and the Second World War had ended I have been interested in the Hollywood Oscars. For the greater part of my childhood I was taken every Monday and Thursday evening to the Odeon Cinema Wallington, because my care mother who worked in various shops in Wallington had befriended an usherette who got for her a half price concession card so that we paid only a few old pence to attend. I would also go to the Saturday morning Matinee for children and at weekends, if I was lucky I would be taken by older cousins to see films at Sutton where there was a Grenada and a Gaumont, or Purley where they was a Grenada and one other, or Croydon where there was the Davis which could seat several thousand as well as other Cinema chains. Sometimes I would also be taken by my birth and care mothers and their older sister to the Odeon Wallington at the weekend when during the interval between the two main pictures an organist would play and the audience would sing. In those days the cinema would be brightly lit and there would be curtains to be moved to the side to reveal the screen. There were three categories of films, the U which was open to everyone and the A film where children had to be accompanied by an adult and the X film where officially one had to be 18 but along with everyone else we would go as soon as we were sixteen and in my case had left school and started work. I have now seen almost all the films which were awarded the best picture, some several times with one the 1943 winner Casablanca, at least once a year.

I do not remember the 1927 winner Wings with 1928 The Broadway Melody, the first remembered. It was several decades later that I saw All Quiet on the Western Front 1929/30, seen several times along with Grand Hotel 31/32. I am not sure about Cimerron which I may be confusing with the Cimarron Kid which is being shown regularly on cable and satellite. Cavalcade, It happened one Night, Mutiny on the Bounty have been seen some several times from the 1930’s but I have a query about, the Great Zigfield not to be confused with the Zigfield Follies, another query is the Life of Emile Zola, but definitely, You cannot Take it with you and Gone with the Wind which was the favourite of my care mother who would see the film every time it was shown subsequently on television during her later life.

Others from this era experienced, and often viewed several times over the years which were highly regarded in their day, were A Tale of two Cities, Lost Horizon, A Star is Born, The Citadel, Grand Illusion and Pygmalion, Stage Door, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, The Good Earth and the Adventures of Robin Hood, San Francisco and Test Pilot, Dark Victory and Goodbye Mr Chips, Mr Smith goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men( I have book), Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, Mr Deeds goes to Town, Little Women(I had the book and may still have)( which was an eleven plus film) Farewell to arms, I am a Fugitive from the Chain Gang, The Private life of Henry VIII and State Fair, The Thin man, Shanghai Express, David Copperfield and Les Miserables.

1940 Oscar winners were Rebecca, How green was my valley (I have the book) Mrs Minerva, Lost Weekend, The Best Years of Our Lives, Going My Way, Gentleman’s agreement and Hamlet which I saw in theatre when it was released, All the Kings Men, and Casablanca as previously highlighted. Others were The Razors Edge, The Yearling, Foreign Correspondent and the Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, The Philadelphia Story, Citizen Kane, The Little Foxes, The Maltese Falcon and Sargeant York, Random Harvest, The 49th Parallel which I have just acquired the DVD, The Magnificent Ambersons and Yankee Doodle Dandy, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Heaven Can wait, In Which we Serve (have DVD) and the Oxbow Incident and Madam Curie. Double Indemnity and Gas Light, The Bishop’s Wife, Great Expectations and Johnny Belinda which I remember seeing at the Wallington Odeon. Miracle on 34th Street and the Red Shoes, again in theatre. The Heiress and Twelve O’clock High and the Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

The 1950 winners were All about Eve, An American in Paris, The Greatest Show on Earth and From Here to Eternity, Marty and On the Waterfront, Around the World in Eighty Days and Gigi and Ben Hur were all seen in theatres. Others in the running were Father of the Bride, King Solomon’s Mines and Sunset Boulevard, High Noon. Ivanhoe, The Quiet Man and Moulin Rouge(have DVD), Julius Caesar, The Robe, Roman Holiday, Shane, The Caine Mutiny, Seven Brides for Seven brothers, the Country Girl and Three Coins in the Fountain. Love is a many Splendid things, Picnic, Mr Roberts and the Rose Tattoo, Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I, The Ten Commandments(have DVD) and Peyton Place, 12 Angry Men, Witness for the Prosecution and Sayonara, Cat on the Hot Tin Roof, The Defiant ones and Separate Tables. The Defiant Ones and the Diary of Anne Frank, The Nuns Story, Anatomy of Murder and Room at the Top(have book).

1960 winners were The Apartment, West Side Story and Lawrence of Arabia (DVD and Seven Pillars of Wisdom) Tom Jones, My Fair Lady and the Sound of Music (Video Tape), A Man for All Seasons, In the Heat of the Night and Oliver and Midnight Cowboy. Others were Sons and Lovers, Elmer Gantry and the Sundowners; The Guns of Navarone and visited film site(DVD) Judgement at Nuremberg and Hustler, the Longest Day, Mutiny on the Bounty and Kill a Mockingbird. Cleopatra and How the West were won. Becket, Dr Strangelove (DVD), Mary Poppins and Zorba the Greek. Dr Zhivago. Ship of Fools, Darling and Alfie, The Sand Pebbles and Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf. Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Doctor Doolittle and Guess who is coming to Dinner. Funny Girl, The Lion in Winter and Romeo and Juliet. Butch Cassidy, Anne of a Thousands days and Hello Dolly.

1970 Winners were Patton and the French Connection, The Sting, The Godfather Part II and One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest Rocky and Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter and Kramer V Kramer. Others were Love Story, Mash and Five Easy Pieces. A Clockwork Orange, Nicholas and Alexander, Fiddle on the Roof and the Last Picture Show. Cabaret (DVD) and Deliverance. A Touch of Class. The Exorcist and American Graffiti. China Town, The Towering Inferno and Lenny. Cries and Whispers, Jaws and Nashville, All the Presidents Men(DVD) and Taxi Driver. Julia, Star Wars and the Turning Point. Midnight Express and Heaven can Wait. Apocalypse Now and All that Jazz.

1980 winners were Ordinary People (I do not remember seeing) Chariots of Fire, Ghandi(DVD), Terms of Endearment, Amadeus(DVD) Out of Africa, Platoon(Video) The Last Emperor, Rain man and Driving Miss Daisy. Others Coalminer’s daughter. Raging Bull(Video), Tess and Elephant Man, Reds(seen in Paris), Atlantic City, On Golden Pond (DVD) and Raiders of Lost Ark(on ferry from Holland). E.T(DVD), Tootsie and The Verdict. The Big Chill, A Passage to India, The Color Purple and Prizzi’s Honour. Children of the Lesser God, a Room with a view, Hannah and her Sisters, and the Mission (DVD), Fatal Attraction. The Accidental Tourist, Mississippi Burning and Dangerous Liaisons. Dead Poet’s Society and Born on the Fourth of July (video) together with My Left Foot.

1990 winners were Dancing with Wolves, The Silence of Lambs, Unforgiven and Schindler’s List, Brave Heart and the English Patient (DVD), Titanic and Shakespeare in Love and American Beauty (DVD) Forest Gump Others Godfather III and Goodfellows. Bugsy, JFK (DVD) and the Prince of Tides. The Crying Game, A few Good Men(DVD), The Scent of a woman and Howard’s End. In the Name of the Father, the Piano and the Remains of the Day. Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction and the Shawshank Redemption. The Fugitive and Apollo 13. As Good as it Gets, Life is Beautiful, Babe and Sense and Sensibility. Secrets and Lies, Jerry McGuire and Fargo. The Full Monty, LA Confidential and Good Will Hunting. Elizabeth and Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Cider House Rules(book). The Green Mile, and the Sixth Sense.

2000 winners are Gladiator(DVD) Beautiful Mind, Chicago(DVD), Lord of the Rings(both sets of DVD’s and books), Million Dollar Baby, Crash, The Departed and No Country for Old Men, Slum Dog Millionaire, Others Chocolate(DVD) Crouching Tiger(DVD, Erin Brockovitch and Traffic. Gosford Park, Moulin Rouge(DVD) and Lord of the Rings( Both sets of DVD’s book). Gangs of New York, The Hours (DVD), The Pianist (DVD and book), The Lord of the Rings (sets of DVD’s and book), Lost in Translation (DVD) Master and Commander, Mystic River and Seabiscuit. The Aviator, Finding Neverland and Ray (DVD). Brokeback Mountain, Munich, Goodnight and Good Luck. Babel, Letters to Iwo Jima, The Queen and Little Miss Sunshine. Atonement, Juno and Michael Clayton. Those highlighted had greater impact than the others. I do not remember seeing Oscar winners Wings, Ordinary People and did not see Million Dollar Baby with a question mark over Cimerron, The Life of Emile Zola and the Great Zigfield which I would need to see again to remember if I have seen before. Several of the Oscar winners and contenders from the 1930’s I did not see until the 1940’s and many of those from the 1940’s I am not sure if I saw first in theatre, or subsequently on Terrestrial or Satellite. Some films such as Margaret Lockwood are Wicked Lady or the early Walt Disney Films. Such as Snow White they left more of an impression, not always a good impression, than those which highly regarded in their day. Some films not on these lists were better or made a greater impressions than many included such as The African Queen, Les Enfant du Paradis (Oxford) Paths of Glory (Oxford), Richard III, The Third Man, The Thirty Nine Steps (original) and Whisky Galore, The Lady Vanishes (original) and It’s a Wonderful Life. Two films in Barry Norman’s 100 lists I did not see until recent years Wild Strawberries and La Strada with both in my Top List as well as Scenes from a Marriage and Saraband, Autumn Sonata and La Dolce Vita, the latter which I did see shortly after release. Many films affect me in childhood while as are important because of the place, the person/people association or the issues, films such as Get Carter and The Wicker Man from recent years, Morning Departure from immediately after World War 2, Bill Haley’s Rock around the Clock, with the dancing in the aisles, Turning the Key Softly and a Bridget Bardot on my first date, the choice of the first date to the disapproval of her parents. This makes me want to do a different piece on films which had an influence and why, if I can now remember or am prepared to say. Another piece will be on actors and acting performances. For example I do not believe that Doubt is a great film but the performances of Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman are together with the actors who play the young nun and the boy’s mother are outstanding. I thoroughly enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire but it was the performances of the children in the early part of the film which impressed more than the adolescents and young adults. I am in advance of myself.

For the greater part decade when I held a cinema see everything ticket, and commenced to keep records of films seen, reviews or my own notes, my interest in those nominated at the Oscars has increased. I have debate watching the Oscars live, resisting so far paying for Sky films as I have seen most of the films which they shown in Theatre or have already seen on TV, DVD or Video. This was the reason why I selected the internet DVD subscription instead because I wanted to look back on the films of Directors such as Bergman and Fellini, and then discovered Almodovar. There is a lot about the Oscars which I do not like, I avoid the Red Carpet shows where remarkably silly and uneducated young women chatter away about dresses and make stupid comments or ask the Actors cringe questions. While I understand that most individual acting performances are the result of the team work of the various technical and directorial staff on films which are often listed in the credits in their hundreds, why do recipients have to claim the crew is the best ever, every time. When a stage actor gets an award they talk of other actors and people who influenced them but I cannot recall hearing about the lighting or the sound. I also believe there should be a better way of paying tribute to those have died, because now it is terribly rushed.

This year I was tempted to go to bed, and keep away from the news until the Sky One showing of edited highlights on Monday evening. However a couple of years back when I did this, I was horrified to find that Sky used over half the two hours allocated to the red carpet, after awards interviews and parties and adverts. The problem is that Hollywood has become schizoid as it is split between those who want to make the award ceremony as big an earner as possible by restricting coverage to pay for view TV in one form of another and those who want more people to go and see the nominated films and make money that way and which involves making the viewing of the ceremony free.

In the event what happened was the wrong choice in every respect. I went to bed but was restless and tired and went to sleep waking about two thirty. I should have returned to sleep as usual but collected the battery operated radio from the bathroom and tried to listen to that, but was very tired so switched off and tried to sleep but could not, got up and listen to LBC radio on Sky digital where the two commentators were awful, sneering, without any good understanding of the cinema or the ability to communicate live events on the radio. They were typical example of the kind of journalists who only thrive on bad story or dramatic story news. They become quickly bored because they are such boring people and cannot cope when the predictable happens. Meryl Streep gave two brilliant performances this year, for Mama Mia and Doubt, superior to the two of Kate Winslet, although I thought her performances were also worthy of an award and superior to that off Angelina Jolie. I have not seen the other two actors nominated Anne Hathaway or Melissa Leo. However Kate had been nominated five times without success, or a Golden Globe until this year, whereas Streep has a total 15 nominations and two Oscars and over 20 other major awards including Golden Globes, Bafta’s and Life Achievement.

I have not seen Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight but did in Brokeback Mountain. He was a young man destined for greatness and his premature death meant that there was an additional reason for honouring him and his family. I would be surprised if his performance was in the same class as that as Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt though. Hollywood was split over Mickey Rourke, talented but messed up of his own making. I did not want to see the Wrestler because wrestling is more of a fixed fraud than professional Boxing, although a close run thing, with its fixing of gambling and other criminal aspects. I though Frank Langella was outstanding and head and shoulders above everyone else as best actor in a male role, butt with the recent attacks on the Gay community in the USA it was inevitable it would go to Sean Penn for his performance in Milk. Having not seen the wrestler I cannot comment on the Performance of Marisa Tomei and I am yet to see Penelope Cruz but she is a fine actress whose previous performance deserved recognition outside of Spain. I now come to best Picture and best Director. I thought Slum Dog Millionaire was the best all-round film of the year although I was disappointed that Boy in Stripped Pyjamas did not feature. However the extent of the awards given was more to do with two non performance reasons. The first is that Hollywood wants to compete more with Bollywood in India as India becomes an economic player on the world stage and secondly Hollywood wanted to show support for India following the latest Mumbai massacre and its opposition to what is happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I thought the visual effects and make up in Benjamin Button were brilliant as was the performance of Taraji P Henson as his surrogate mother. It is also an imaginative concept, however Brad Pitt is just below the level of the other nominated performance and the story was too Forest Gump for my liking.. I enjoyed The Duchess so was pleased it gained an award for Costume and that Australia got a mention along with the Changeling which I thought was an important film and Angelina merited her nomination. There is only one regret rather than dissent and that is that In Bruges did not win the best script. I am usually opposed the gratuitous use of swearing in films but In Bruges is so dark witted, nearly said bloody funny, that for once it was the authentic use of the f word by the three central characters which added to an already rich script rather than detracted. That’s that I guess for another year or at least until the autumn as film makers usually save their best until the autumn and New Year.

Sophie Scholl

I have a childhood memory of going to the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday and of not understanding or feeling the symbolism of the event. On the local TV in the evening some six decades later, a headline was "X rated service," and latter the explanation was that a parish advised parents not to bring children to the service because images would be shown from Mel Gibson's Passion, and the church wanted parishioners to understand and feel the reality of physical suffering and mental torment which one human being voluntarily subjected themselves to two thousands years ago on behalf of others. This is an act which many had done before and countless others since, and where few have been recorded.

One of my heroes is Sophie Scholl, a remarkable young German girl, who with her brother Hans, produced and circulated literature on truth and liberty for all in Munich as part of a resistance group against the Nazi regime called the White Rose. They were arrested in 1943 for distributing flyers around the University and at her trial, (and which fortunately, someone who was part of the event subsequently recorded for us), she defiantly continued her protest against the system. She was condemned to death, allowed to see her parents and her brother, and faced her execution with a calmness which so amazed her jailers that what happened was subsequently reported by one of them, so that her story could subsequently be shared.

I have previously mentioned that as a boy I read the official reports of the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials of those involved with Belsen and Auschwitz and how much I was moved and the extent to which it led to laying down one cold Monday morning in the middle of a road before a line of bemused policemen, and that because some of us repeated the event two weeks later we decided to spend six months in prison rather than agree to effectively admit that we were wrong and the authorities were right. When I think of the bravery which Sophie and her companions showed in going against the Nazi regime midway during the Second World War knowing what would happen if they were caught, I am ashamed.

She was a direct descendent of the event which many still witness two thousand years later. To me it is irrelevant if Jesus of Nazareth was just a remarkable man who subsequent has had a good press, or was the son of God, conceived of a virgin and who was humanly resurrected after death. What he did that day, as others such as Sophie Scholl has done since, and the list of others is endless, is not just to bear physical torture, mental suffering and death which should be an eternal lesson to all, but they did it as act of solidarity with everyone else who is persecuted and punished for what they believe and feel, and they also forgave those responsible for what was being done to them as a consequence.

Both are reported to have believed that what they were doing was not a final end, but an end to a new beginning. There are those, and again the list is endless, who bear and share in the suffering and death of others, and who do so believing that there will be no resurrection, no tomorrow, or meeting up with those who have been loved and lost. I think of the countless parents who rush back into burning houses in a failed rescue of a child, and of the soldiers from both sides ordered to advance from the cover of their trenches into a hail of bullets and a shower of mortar bombs, time and time and time and time again, and did so, and still do.

There is however one aspect of our witness to the Passion which continues to distress me and I am sure that in this I am not alone. When someone is locked in such pain whether physical or mental and can see only an ending as resolution what can one say to encourage them to continue to bear it?

Can one say that politicians will give priority to tackling the starvation and the sickness which kills so many children each and every second?

Can one say that politicians, international corporations and power group interests, will take the appropriate action to protect the planet and all its species, and habitations, from the effects of human made pollution, misuse and neglect?

Can one say that governments and churches and economic interests will unite and end disputes and confrontations which result in blood shedding?

Can I say that we will all join in giving priority to protecting children from abuse and enable them to develop their innate and acquired spiritual, mental, physical and emotional abilities to their maximum potential?

Can I say that we will all take appropriate action to protect and further the interests of the vulnerable and the dependent, especially those who reach the limits of old age?

No I think I cannot say any of that, so what can I say?

The truth is I do not know, I am unsure, and what I think I know and what I believe I can say sounds in my head so inadequate that I hesitate to share.

"I understand," how pathetic is that for how can anyone understand?

"I care," to be met with, "Great, I hope that makes you feel better than it does me."

"I want to help," when you know you cannot reach.

"I have suffered too and come through." "Well a'int you the lucky one."

I could try a little humour, I have always said we can only learn from our own mistakes and what if you are wrong and I am right you will not have the chance to learn.

Nope I don't believe any of these will do.

Is there anything else, however desperate in this moment of helplessness?

Help me, I need you and others will.

Hi ColinThank you for sharing this.I hope you also have room for hope dreams and optimism in your mind.I find that when life gets too dark, serious and even depressing, being creative is a way to lift myself up from it all and feel happy again.Hugs from Artoony Posted by Artoony on 20:04 - 20:15

Abbey and Gothic thoughts

I misused part of this evening when I was in the mood for continuing working by watching a creditable production of Jane Austin's first novel Northanger Abbey. According to research (Wikipedia) the novel was original sold to a publisher in Bath for £10, where the story is set, then repurchased for the same amount, rewritten and published posthumously. Part of my misuse of time arose because I confused Ms Austin with the Bronte sisters whose lives I have studied and visited their Yorkshire parsonage home and therefore is part of my recreating work experience. This dyslexic form of stupidity is something that I do from time to time.

Having made this discovery I decided to continue working on the issue of addiction and disorders, (personality and social), and made great progress, but forgot to save and then lost the work through a crash caused by trying to use two Microsoft word processing programmes at the same time, and where there is no prospect of recovering the fine words created. I hate unintentional repetition so I decided to write about the Northanger Abbey film anyway, because it is a good example of the lesson that we never learn from the mistakes of others, or those made by previous generations.

Wikipedia is excellent in listing the main issues in the novel which were carried forward into the film.

However if so then I believe the main point, which for me, is that if you entrust those you have responsibility for to the care of others you are taking a risk, even if you believe you know the individuals, and have checked them out, a risk which can have devastating consequences. The parents of the heroine are portrayed as well meaning and kindly parents who have misgivings about their daughter's judgement and capacity to survive in the real world. She is a naïve romantic who believes what she is told unless provided evidence to the contrary, and spends much of her time devouring Gothic melodramas hoping her life will be prove as interesting and exciting. Because she is fundamentally an intelligent person with a conscience, she learns from her own mistakes and experiences, The story ends on a high note as she agrees to marry a kind and honest man who one suspects she will soon tire of unless and she will revert to living through the lives of others, once her life became dominated by child rearing and devoting herself to supporting her husband and his work, and with no other creative or meaningful activity of her own.

It is interesting that the Wikipedia listed themes are presented in such a way that I am not clear if the writer intending to applaud the approach of Ms Austin or it is intended to be a neutral or critical presentation.

The next theme is the danger when people believe that life is the same as fiction, especially fiction filled with danger and intrigue. Clearly this is nonsense. Great fiction is able to demonstrate just how much danger and intrigue exists in everyday life at all levels of society. In my mother's lifetime she has experienced two world wars and a neighbouring civil war, the death of her parents, and loss of the family home, and then of ten brothers and sisters, and from within their families, of banishment after a traumatising experience and comparative poverty over several decades, only to then suffer the years of the illness of severe memory loss with psychosis and physical dependency, and most of her brothers and sisters had similar experiences, so that her own cannot be described as extraordinary, and where even living to 100 years has become common place. Trash fiction, just like trash religion and trash politics tries to present life as a fairy story which fortunately an increasingly education public treats with contempt.

The second stated theme is that through the process of growing up the young lose their innocence, imagination and good faith turning into sceptical adults. The UK government has recently launched a media campaign to attract people into becoming carers helping people in their own homes and residential situations, The adverts emphasis what a rewarding job such tasks can be, and which is so, as the staff concerned constantly tell me, although the financial rewards are scandalously lower than those who become doctors and nurses, and they have to cope with significant oral and physical abuse from those with illnesses of the mind, and where longevity and physical aging means dependency on the carer for bodily functions.

The myth that innocence was ever a good thing should not be perpetuated although at least in the existing developed capitalist societies it has belatedly come to be recognised that unless those with imagination and good will are nurtured, our general standard of living will quickly be swamped by the rapidly growing newer capitalist economies, especially those that command natural energy resources.

A third message is that things are never quite as they seem, and a fourth that if one is to survive, then the sooner you become more self reliant and independently minded the better.
It is with the fifth and sixth themes that we enter the realms of mythology once more. The first being that life at the top was tedious to those who experienced it, although it would have been for a certain kind of person, but who is always in the minority. However the greatest myth of all is that one should not marry unless it is for romantic love, and which unfortunately is the same nonsense which young minds are filled with two hundred years later.

People should never marry for romantic love alone, and in fact the best marriages are likely to be cleverly arranged marriages, where account is fully taken of family and individual backgrounds to bring prospective couples into situations where nature can take its course. In comparatively stable societies where generations lived in close proximity and respect, grandparents and community leaders were in the best position to "arrange" marriages, whereas to-day, specialist agencies with trained and experience staff are more likely to find good long term matches than the hit and miss of going about it alone.

It is no good preaching morality or the risks and problems of indiscriminate relationships based on fancying somebody because of their looks and appearance or trying out a succession of prospective partners. It is no good saying what if you go to bed with someone and have a great time, but decide that you do not want a life term relationship with them, or they with you, and then you cannot find someone as good again? And for bed, you can substitute any of the single aspects upon which a relationship can build up over time to survive all the shortcomings of each other which become more irritating over time, and which can become mixed up with the disappointments and misfortunes of life in general that will occur.

Sadly it is in the order of things that we do not learn from the mistakes of others, including what happened in the past. In the later 1930's people in their millions paid the price for how the victorious nations treated the German people, a mistake which the allies, less Russia, did not make in 1945. Yet having experienced the success of post war Germany and Japan, the US administration failed with disastrous consequences to apply the lessons in Iraq. Unfortunately this is not a Gothic fantasy but a documentary reality. It is not the going into war that was wrong, but in trying to deliver the peace without the required resources. However at least for the time since the blood is being shed in another land, but then those with empathy will find no consolation in this, because of knowing what it is like for the non combatants who have to experience the Gothic horror day by day. It was about empathy that I had begun the piece about addictive behaviour and the excessive enthusiast, and the difference between addictions and personality and social disorders, and which will have now to be rewritten in the morrow.