Wednesday, 25 March 2009

City of Angels

One touch of her hand than an eternity without ever having done so, it the best line from City of Angels, the Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan film of whimsy, the second within two days. Given my agnosticism about the concept of a human form of God. It will appear whimsical that I have felt the existence of a personal guardian angel pointing the way out of dark places that I have sometimes explored and generally indicating the way ahead. Today guardian angel was much in evidence, to an extent that I became anxious about what disaster lay immediately ahead. Whereas yesterday I had a sense of a lot to do and insufficient time to accomplish, today I kept asking why I felt so relaxed and why there seemed so much time available to accomplish the tasks in hand. Such was my concern at this wondrous situation that I went around checking to try and work out the obvious things missed which usually happens and so far the response has been zero.

I was expecting someone to call this afternoon and I wanted to be ready to go and needed to collect a book of stamps from the mantle to the fireplace and which involved stepping between two laden small tables and a pile of completed work volumes waiting to be photographed. On existing I stumbled caught my leg on the hard edge of the sofa which I felt onto, a soft landing as they say, which could have been a lot worse, remembering what happened when I went to explore a new corner shop earlier in the year, cut my nose laving and scar and having to spend several hours in hospital while they checked to ensure there were no serious after effects. By coincidence I after calling in at the newsagent I made my way to the post box which was opposite the said corner shop and as I turned away having completed the posting I stumbled on the uneven paving stone but this was slight and regained my balance without the risk of falling. So two down and one to go. I hoped I did have a guardian angel.

I had been out earlier to the supermarket earlier for salad (lettuce, tomatoes and cumbers) fresh fruit salad, a mixture of melon, mango and grapes, an ideal portion for me at £1 when on the go, but expensive given the number of portions which could be made up from buy grapes and melon separately plus a mango. I also bought croissant for breakfast and a couple of Danish pastries as treats. I enjoyed my food today with a Danish and coffee mid morning breakfast, a concoction for lunch stir fry of onion and green pepper with noodles and Thai made up sauce with added ginger and half a melon. Shell on prawns and decaffeinated tea mid afternoon. Tomato and basil soup and brown finger roll for evening meal, followed by a sald mix with a small piece of salmon and a larger piece of smoked mackerel followed the second half of the melon plus decaffeinated coffee.

Sewed button to front of trousers to secure the waist band, undertook a washing machine small load, dry and ironing. Paid credit card outstanding in full and checked account. Checked and responded to emails, some personal others general.

The Prime Minister is away addressing the European Parliament so Harriet Harman took on William Hague and Vince Cable. Harriet was well prepared and in a combative mode. The main strike against the government was to raise the recent public intervention of the Independent Governor of the Bank of England against a new, second or further Government intervention involving tax cuts or additional borrowings. This was followed today with the inability to sell all the Gilts available on offer. The Bank, probably in league with the Treasury are pulling the stops to prevent the Prime Minister forcing developments with which they disagree to make a voter friendly budget and win votes.

I have enjoyed the second series of Ballykissangel which has seen the departure of Father Clifford and Assumpta of Fitzgerald’s. He is away on a Retreat with Father Mac trying to prove he can operate the parish as well as his own and save the cost of the Curate while Assumpta is running a bar with a friend in Dublin. In this episode Brian Quigley has put all his financial eggs into his development programme for the village and which involves a deal with South Koreans for whom he plans a traditional authentic Irish experience. The shrewd managing director and chief executive plus interpreter arrive early, as is their want. in order to test the locals and things go badly until they stumble on a party at the former village hall and have a great time. Brian believe all his efforts are wasted as the decision is said to have already been made in favour and Glasgow area bid. I do not think this in the case, but will miss the episode tomorrow. Alas I was wrong and the deal is already made elsewhere and Brian is forced to sell his House and his car and lay off his two sidekicks. When he discovers that his son in law‘s mother, who he cannot stand, has money, he changes his approach, according to the notes on tomorrows edition.

The premise of the film, City of Angels, is that angels cannot feel or experience sensation as human beings. A premise I reject but without which the film falls apart. Nicolas Cage is a messenger taking people who die to heaven. They can be everywhere simultaneously where there is the possibility of death. He and the other angels, who amazingly appear to be all male and in human form, and allocated to The City of Angeles, Los Angeles, use the City Library as their base, but manage to assemble every dawn and dusk by the ocean to commune with God.

Nicholas is present when surgeon Meg Ryan desperately tries to save the life of a patient and gets very upset when she fails. For some reason because of her questioning God and his attraction to her, she gets sight of him and because of his interest and concern, a non feeling concern you understand, he is able to appear again and became directly acquainted. She is able to touch him but he continues to have no feelings. She invites him to attend the party of a patient she has saved and the man reveals that he too was an angel who wanted to have human experience and he realised that God had given angels free will along with human beings and that it is possible for angels to fall, that is, to become human, with human feelings and experience, including an eventual physical death. The man is married and become a grandparents with a tendency to over eat. When a photo is taken which does not show Nicholas, Meg becomes suspicious and later cuts his hand and find there is no blood so he reveals all. Understandably this blows her mind and she runs off and Nicholas is also upset by the predicament. There are two complicating factors. The first is that she has been having a good relationship with a colleague who sensing something has changed decides it is time to propose. The second is that the saved man who was an angels to her that if Nicholas is prepared to give up his role and immortality as an angel he can become human.

This something Nicholas decides to do and one of he best moments in the film si where eh experiences the normal feelings and sensation we are all accustomed to unless we have been deprived in some form. Getting to see Meg again is also hazardous and involves being mugged. Eventually they meet up and he finds that she has turned down the marriage offer so there is nothing preventing a union in which the earth moves. For the second film day in succession just when the joy has no boundaries, she is killed while out jogging and he learns the nature of human grief and loss. However when asked that question, his answer is that all human being s are able to give, except in those moment of despair, grief and loss, unless of course you were previously an Angel.

Did my guardian Angel prevent a third mishaps turning into a disaster. Alas not quite. More on that on the morrow.

Apocalypto and Riddle

I believe I understand concept of Limbo in its spiritual and psychological meaning as a condition of being between where we have been and know, and where we are moving to and wish for and but also fear. It may be better, more as we would like, but it may also be worse and a step before the abyss. It is therefore a place of uncertainty and tension. While the length and nature of the rest of my life is unknown and therefore uncertain, and I am frequently bewildered by the choices available, and while I am sometimes afraid when I contemplate some of the options, the possibilities, and the chains of inevitable consequences which some actions and decisions, or inactions and indecisions appear to bring, I am not in an overall state of tension. I feel at peace with myself and therefore with other human beings and with nature. Later I believe a better word is harmony

It has not always been so and I do not anticipate that it will continue throughout my remaining self awareness, nor does this mean an absence of strong emotions, or always being in an intensity of being and heightened alertness. I am frequently tired and I sometimes fight to experience more or to work on, but usually I know when to yield and when to not.

I would love to continue to sit and explore my present thoughts and feelings. I would like to finish off what I have been writing about beforehand and completing the background work required to reach the point when I feel able to move onto something new or something outstanding. I would like to walk in what appears to be a good morning. But having slept from 1 am, perhaps a little later, through until just before 10 am with two gettings up, both with dreams I continue to remember, and think I understand and returning immediately to a pleasantly remembered slumber, it is time to prepare a sandwich lunch, to but the Mail on Sunday if they are still available because of the unusual free distribution of an undistributed new film, and time to attend to my mother and her situation.

It is 5.49 pm and I returned home before 5 pm to get a wash underway, some sorting and some writing only to then remember that the Q E 2 was arriving at North Tyneside Dock around 5 and traffic was everywhere trying to park including the back lanes. Fortunate I found a space near to where I live. However despite the huge crows all that has happened so far is that the ship has circled along the coast. Perhaps the wind is too strong, perhaps it is now waiting for the evening sailing of the DFS North Sea Ferry sherry service to depart. The tugs are still there all four, plus the ferry boats packed with sightseers and a flotilla of smaller craft.

It has been that kind of day as I went in search of a Daily Mail fro a copy of a unreleased film Riddle with Derek Jacobi, Vanessa Redgrave and Vinnie Jones. There was none at Asda so I moved on to High Street and W H Smiths, was closed and Woolworths had a copy so on impulse I went to see if they had a recently issued double DC of the 30 best of Marc Bolam T Rex and while I was there I could not resist Amy Whitehouse Back to Back my first purchases of a CD's this year. Amy Winehouse has a jazzy voice full of feeling which is unique, perhaps because she is destroying herself, as several others have before, from excessive alcohol, drugs and self abuse, Janis Joplin the first to mind in what could be a litany. Recently her father in law pleaded that the public boycott as means of bringing her and their son to his senses before it was too late. I understand their position but she is paying the price of her gift her way. We cannot and should not attempt control the lives of our children but provide unconditional love, understanding and support. But in some situations this is difficult to impossible, especially in the glare of the mass media.

I had only been at the hospital for an hour when I realised that the Sunday Times was issuing free DVD's of Michael Palin's travel so I went in search and invested £2 only to find it was a single episode and not the one I had hoped for. Now I have a week's reading of newspapers.

England are Playing South Africa in the 20/20 and had a good start taking wickets and controlling the run flow and then everything goes wrong dropped catches, sixes and the game slips.

My interest over the past three days has been Apocalypto, Mel Gibson's second directorial journey using historical language, in this instance Mayan, to present his unique perception of universal truths was not a film I rushed to experience either in Theatre or on DVD. I found The Passion unbearable to watch such was the intensity and reality of the suffering, although acceptable because of its purpose symbolism and purpose. Apocalypto is essentially entertainment, a classic chase film, with an ending which reminds of the Bergman's film, The Seventh Seal, when at the end of a medieval plague, one simple, environmental nuclear family, survive in their form of garden of Eden.
In Apocalypto there never was a Garden of Eden. The hero is an experienced "savage" hunter who has to hunt and kill animals to survive and he needs all the street fighting skills imparted by his father and other tribe members to outwit the sophisticated Mayan city folk who engage in daily enslavement, rape and pillage, to keep the population happy with ritual public slaughter and live private video hunt games where the quarry are the surplus sacrifices.

However his loyalty after his father and brother warriors is to his wife and son who he hides in a precarious environment dependent on returning. This he accomplishes through a mixture of self belief and spiritual prophecy and the natural cleverness and luck of all the James Bond films rolled into one, and we all learn that his wife is more than worthy for his selfless commitment overcoming two body piercing which would have been lethal to anyone else, jumping off Niagara Falls, getting out of a quick sands swamp and out running and outwitting a cougar.

She survives imprisoned in the abyss, attends to her son when injured, gives birth, overcomes floods and retains an impressive tranquillity and faith in their redemption by her husband. However at they set off to a new beginning at the end of the film we know they are now in even greater period because the Christian banner waving Conquistadors have arrived. This enemy will bring disease and destruction, human exploitation and savage torture to equal and exceed anything the Mayans could produce.

James Barardinelli is my favourite film reviewer, an online film critic whose has never failed in his assessments and he sees the film as a partner to Braveheart than The Passion and the chase has having origins in Mad Max. I suspect Mel Gibson had deeper motives although I do not go along with my other dependable reviewers from Spirituality and Practice who always try and see great meaning and who in this instance begin with the question of questions: Are we living the end of times? Well only perhaps if we have to be obliterated to make way for a space super highway (Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy)but otherwise human being must be regarded as minor specie in the universe incapable of learning how to live without killing and exploiting each other.

The title, Apocalypto is designed to indicate a story about a civilization in decline, the Mayan, at the hand of the Conquistadors. A subtext is about overcoming fear although the message that if you take on bullies you will win in the end is a false one and misunderstands the Christian and Muslim messages, and maybe Judaism and other religions, which is about how you live, how you deal with fear, how you die, and other issues of conscience and morality irrespective of the consequences or the implications for others. The writers of the review claim that Mel Gibson is on a mission to "help us own up to human savagery and to realise how desperately we need peace and love to counter balance it."
Reference Frederic and Mary Brussat Fro O.F.C.S site
In order to test out this statement as actually representing Gibson's intention it is necessary for me to view the Director's commentary again to night although priority will be Sunderland's win at home on the day the club said goodbye to Ian Porterfield, who died from cancer and whose is remembered for scoring the goal that brought Sunderland glory when the beat Leeds to win the FA Cup in 1973, a game I saw on TV never realising that I would buy a house within walking distance of the club and become a season ticket holder 1974-1990, 2007-?

The reason why I have not immediately watched the commentary is that Durham were on the TV during the day and I returned home to see the end of the game and find out if they beat Glamorgan and achieve promotion to the division 1 of the pro 40 over championship with an out side chance of going up as champions and the second piece of silverware in one year after over a decade of nothing. And WOW they have done both. Compensation for not getting to Sunderland and this would have involved being away for four hours. I will watch an edited version of the game at 10.15.

My evening meal tonight reflected a positive mood. A glass of red wine, a 2005 Rioja Bodegas Primicia from North East Spain, smoked salmon on crackers with fresh lemon juice, stuffed shoulder of mutton with petite corn of cobs and garden peas, followed by fresh pineapple. There was time for part of the X factor preliminaries before the evening visit where my mother was having a peaceful evening and the only event was coping with a daddy long legs which freaked one of the staff who came to prepare my mother for the early part of the night.

This morning I had a dream which echoed several images from Apocalypto. And then became busy, ironing, washing up, vacuuming the entrance passage, stairs to half landing and the toilet, preparing a salmon salad for lunch, defrosting food for evening meal, preparing the pineapple and then deciding on a two egg ham omelette for breakfast.

I watched a little of Independence Day before the Sunderland Reading game on Sky. We now have a strong and fast centre forward who can shoot, a rare combination, but he should have scored two more than the opening goal. There were several other incidents which could have changed the match for both sides, although the excerpts of the interview given by the manager of Reading was a model for not hiding behind questionable refereeing decisions or the poor run of the green, but concentrated on the overall performance of the team over the first part of the new season. Then the final moments of Independence Day and the Mel Gibson commentary. What a disappointment.

Perhaps I was wrong to expect some insight into what he hoped for his film other that clever well acted and produced entertainment. Certainly he gives unlimited to praise to the indigenous actors and extras, some given speaking parts, to the make up team and camera crew. There are lots of in jokes which they share but overall this is Gibson and his co producer an enjoyable buddies look back at what they did and how they did it, but not why. It was the most weird film commentaries I have experienced.

Children of Men and From Hell to Victory

Continuing the war theme on Tuesday evening I watched off and on the last hour of From Hell to Victory made in 1979 with George Peppard, George Hamilton, San Wannamaker and Horst Buckholtz star as four of six friends, one becomes a German Officer who dine together at a Paris restaurant one August just before World War Two and vow to try and meet up on the same day each year. At the end of the war two men and one woman survive and drink toasts to those who did not.

The film contains some glorious errors such as one GI holding a bazooka rocket launcher the wrong way round. In one tank battle the advancing German tanks are post war US tanks. Spitfires are used with German markings and in one recognisance mission the plane used is a vulnerable slow transport plane. These and other mistakes are provided by .

However what I saw of the film was enjoyable, something which cannot be said for the Sicilian which has an excruciatingly bad script with Joss Ackland as the Sicilian Mafia Lord, and Terence Stamp as the cultured landowning Lord, in league with the Catholic Church and the anti communist political parties, to destroy the Sicilian, an up dated Robin Hood prepared to kill the enemies of the people and who is tricked into being involved with a massacre of some communists and their families, and which for some inexplicable reason results in the incident adversely affecting the rise of communism in local elections in Scilly, so the fascists, the right wing and catholic supporting political parties retain control. In the end he has to sacrifice his life in order to protect his wife and unborn child who escape to Mafia protection in the USA. Although he has arranged for the people to have land they can never forgive him for the murder and wounding of several of their communist supporters and families, although he was unaware of what was to happen. He dies accepting that he will be remembered but not venerated which is as it should be. The film closes with a young disciple on horseback in a pose identical to that which the Sicilian had been photographed on the cover of a magazine such as Time.

A twist in the story of the film is that Gore Vidal claimed that he had written ninety percent of the script without any crediting which is one of the most extraordinary boasts given the outcome. The tale is supposed to be based on a Sicilian bandit and was a book by Mario Puzo prior to the Godfather trilogy.

The third film experienced over the past forty eight hours, is a dark film in every sense and of a different order featuring Clive Owen in Children of Men as a kind of reluctant Joseph, and Michael as an aging hippy friend. I decided against seeing the film in theatre when it was first released despite good reviews, because of its depressing and many times depiction of a doomed world because of the failure to take appropriate action to stem the abuse of the planet. The film does not explain why in 2027 the last human being under 17 years has died, as during the previous two decades women world wide had become sterile.

The film opens in a Britain under a right wing fascist dictatorship in which anyone who is not British born and white appears to be rounded up and put in cages, killed or banished back to where they came from. Clive Owen works for a government department involved in the totalitarian regime and he is abducted on his way home after a day of disasters including a bomb blowing up of the café where he has just visited by Muslim terrorists. The group who abducts is a secret underground bunch of idealists opposed to government policy on no British white and led by his former partner of twenty years previous who he has not seen since they split up after the death of their two year old child. She wants Clive to use his influence to obtain the paper work to enable a young black woman to escape and reach a group who go under the name of the Human Project. Clive is unaware of the significance of the young woman until she reveals that she in the last stages of pregnancy a fact which is the modern day equivalent of a Virgin birth with all the similar consequential reactions from adoration of the infant after she gives birth by the soldiers of the government and the people they are interring and a prize to further sectarian causes and interests.

Clive Owen's former partner is murdered by the second in command so he can take over the group, get hold of the child and use to gain wider power and control, although the film does not explain how this is to be achieved, and the group then murder Michael Caine and his wife for harbouring and protecting Clive and the still pregnant girl. Fortunately Caine has a contact who is a guard at a processing camp which allows some to go to Bexhill which has become a ghetto which is about to rise up led my the Muslim terrorists. He is willing to get them to the processing camp for money, an unusual situation as he is usually bribed to help others get out and he cooperates until finding that she has a child and that Clive and she has a great price on their heads by the state. They escape from him only to be captured by the group which his girl friend led, although how they came to track them down is also a mystery. The child is separated from the mother and Clive but miraculously the three are reunited in the midst of the uprising which ends with atomic or nuclear explosions. A wounded Clive, perhaps fatally, escape in a small boat to the spot where they are to be picked up by the Human Project a sea going vessel and the film closes on what is intended to be a positive note.

The film has aroused speculation as to its intentions. Among the ingredients are the implications of tightening immigration control, Muslim extremism, and the difficulties of maintaining an ethical position when attempting to overthrow a totalitarian regime. For me the symbolism of a black Madonna and child is paramount. The second coming which ordinary people, whether they are soldiers or the persecuted, recognise, the last opportunity for the majority to prepare themselves for a spiritual life after the physical has ended. Alas there is no evidence that the majority believe in any form of after life, or self aware physical reincarnation or that it makes a fundamental difference how they behave even if they do, and the reality is that if we allow our society to degenerate into the kind portrayed in this film, then we are doomed without escaping the physical horrors of civil strife, mass extermination, eventual self destruction, but we are also damned to eternity in the eyes of other self aware being in other worlds and galaxies who investigate our physical remains.

The Rocket Post film Fact and Fiction

I achieved many of the objectives for today while catching up with writing two pieces and commencing to write for today. The inside of the car was vacuumed, the wind and rear screens were cleaned inside and out, and the water container replenished with a proportion of propriety cleaner added. The plants were given closer attention as they have been a disappointment which much green and less flowers. The explanation is using last year’s bulbs plus an inexpensive quantity of daffodils. Hopefully the new Tulips will make difference. The clothes washing and ironing are now for tomorrow, as is the purchase of salads and plain croissants for breakfast, mending the trouser top and paying the credit card for the month. I contacted Durham cricket club to enquire if the was a publication date for the edition of Wisden which will show Durham as County Champions for 2008. The experience of Sussex is in mind who after gaining the title for the first time could not keep the momentum going and had a poor season immediately following

It was bright but cold morning for a walk into town, going for a copy of the free newspaper, a bacon roll brunch and coffee and purchase of a milk and a melon. I was half way into the town centre before realising that although I had shampooed the hair I had forgotten to shave. I had intended also having a hair cut but it was busy and the barber himself was not in evidence.

In the evening I watched a delightful film which contained a smidgen of fact. The Rocket Post film was completed three years after the death of the British actor and Director Stephen Whittaker and therefore he did not get to see his creation because of severe funding problems. The is one of those ‘I wish it had been true’ tales of a German rocket scientist who in the 1930’s had a dream of sending postal mail via a rocket and was not interested in its military potential and could not find financial interest in his own country and came to England in the hope of attracting funds from the Royal Mail. Thus far the story is accurate, including the failure of the first experiment. This took place in 1934 and the British government then deported him back to Germany where he was arrested on suspicion of helping the British. He survived this and my research does not reveal if he passed on his technology to the government or continued his research but says that he had served in the German air force during World War II and then became a furniture dealer in West Germany continuing his interest in rocket making as a hobby. In 1964 there was an accident which killed three people and this led to a ban on private rocket experiments which was eased in the 1970’s enabling him to continue his work on using rockets to convey mail. He died in 1985 at the age of 77 and again there is no reference to having married or any family.

Nor is there evidence that he ever visited, let alone carried out experiments in Scotland. In the film, unbeknown to the Prime Minister, the Gerhard Zucher character who unusually retains his real name in the film, and his assistant, are taken to a remote Scottish Island to attempt to develop a rocket which will take mail back and forth to the mainland. The idea for the continuing experiment appears to have originated with someone who recognised the military potential and the local Member of Parliament/Laird who pretends that the scheme is compensation for the fact that the islanders cannot have the telephone line they are pressing for because there are less than 100 of them.

The film follows a well worn path with the islander reluctant to show hospitality or interest in the project and the two Germans, one the inventor and the other the builder of the rocket and launch platform made of timber until they have proved themselves in ways acceptable. This occurs when a whale is stranded on the beach and released to the ocean through the unlikely alliance of the scientist and the uncle of the only attractive young woman we see on the island, who hates Germans, because it emerges he was a P.O.W during the first world war (and as emerges even later he has learnt to speak German)

The islanders live in comparative primitive conditions with no electricity or internal plumbing. This was common for rural community before after World War II and I used to visit a married cousin to a farm worker where the lighting was by oil lamp and the toilet was a distance from the house which created problems at night and in winter.

The first experiment on the Island fails as had that conducted in England and at this point the scientist realises that his companion is sabotaging the project in order that the technology does not fall into the hands of England and that he is loyal to the Fascist regime and supports the military potential of their work. A visiting USA ornithologist is also showing great interest in the project. When the saboteur leaves it looks as if the project has failed but fortunately a former Clydeside shipyard worker has returned to his island home where he is a thorn in the flesh of the Laird because of his tendency to fish the salmon and take the pheasants from the estate as a means of living. He helps the scientist to build a third rocket with material already supplied despite an order from Downing Street that the project should stop, and this time the rocket works and delivers mail across the water onto the land of the Laid for onward transmission. This results in materials for a fourth rocket being delivered.

Meanwhile there are two development which make the film dramatic, romantic and whimsical. The niece has grown up with an understanding that she will marry another islander who has trained successfully as a doctor and covers the island from his mainland practice but is on the verge of moving to the city where he has prospects. However she feels the man is more a brother friend than husband and falls in love with the young scientist who reciprocates. At first the uncle is hostile but gives the relationship his blessing and two become lovers for a brief period and are given the blessing by the doctor friend and the uncle At the very point when the story is to have a happy ending, a German submarine arrives off shore with an armed landing party who give the scientist the choice of returning or being killed. Fortunately the uncle has spotted them arriving and with the adult male islanders islands and their sporting guns, comes to the rescue and the Germans are sent packing. However this is not the end of the situation because the former assistant returns and informs the scientist that his sister and her children have been taken into custody and will not be released unless he returns and which he feels he has no alternative leaving his distraught lover. Although the uncle recognises that he has no alternative , he and the islanders hope he will be able to return and become part of their community.

Sadly the scientist is arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to death for treason on his return but the sentence will be commuted if he agrees to work on the military application of the technology. He refuses and is shot, having been allowed to write one letter to his lover. The final scene is when the islands have built the last rocket from the available materials, a bigger and more powerful and in which they fill with letters addressed to Gerhard Zucher.

The film has only had a limited showing in theatres in Scotland and yet it is a good film in the tradition of Whisky Galore and others chronicling the life and community spirit of the islanders. It is unlikely to appeal to the average Saturday night cinema audience but should be popular as a Family TV story on both sides of the Atlantic and in Germany because the scientist is shows as a man of peace rather than against his country per se. I am therefore surprised that the story and the film has remained largely obscure especially as the scientists had been dead for a decade and a half when it was made and for two decades when it was completed and released. I appreciate the financial difficulties which the independent film makers have in the UK but is such a good and commercial story that I cannot help being suspicious that that there is more to this tale than has so far been revealed.

Friday, 20 March 2009

On the Waterfront crime and politics

Having spent the past few days writing and thinking about fictional contemporary politics the reality came on Wednesday lunchtime and David Cameron abandoned his grief and the genuine expressions of sympathy from all sides of the house to revert to confrontational politics of the worse kind. The Political commentators, including those who I usually admire thought it was great. Mr Cameron launched into the Prime Minister with all the venom he and his advisers could muster and Mr Brown matched him point for point. Then Mr Cameron revealed both a flaw and a virtue which makes one question his potential as leader of this nation. He lost it and called Mr Brown a phoney. The Speaker ordered Mr Cameron to make a proper apology for the use of un Parliamentary Language. I like passion especially when politicians feel so concerned about an issues that they let their real feelings show without regard to their effect upon the uncommitted voter. However such outbursts also pose the question: How will you react when facing a real crisis under stress? I am reminded of the recently viewed West Wing episode -- a proportional response. We may all like to sound off and as someone not directly involved in professional politics or government administration I can give vent to my feelings in the same way that everyone else does whether about politics or football. That I have some experience as an insider is relevant but I am free to set the knowledge to one side. My problem is also that the Commons during P.M.Q’s and at other media interested occasion behave like rabid dogs and we all agree what should happen to rabid dogs.

My problem with Mr Cameron is that he and his party are just as guilty of swimming with those who argued for uncontrolled capitalism as is the Prime Minister and other economics orientated Ministers of his government. Only Vince Cable of the Liberal Social Democrats and to a lesser extent, Ken Clark of the Conservatives of all politicians of standing, are known to have warned and counselled against the folly of what was developing

The problem here in the UK is that both front benchers have had their hands in effect well inside this particular cookie jar. Both sets of front benches extolled the benefits of international globalism which involved the exporting of hundreds of thousands of British jobs to Europe, India, China and elsewhere and allowing hundreds of thousands of central Europeans to take the lower paid jobs here in the UK thus making a mockery of employment statistics including new job creation. This would have been fair given the extent to which Britain grew rich over the previous 200 years through slavery and then controlling world wide production and the transport of goods, making full use of the cheapest labour, if the reduced standard of living from reduced work opportunities affected everyone proportionately. What happened is that the capitalist and major land and property owners and developers made huge profits, paid themselves bigger and bigger salaries and obscene bonuses, while the middle classes felt themselves richer because of the false soaring escalation in property prices, and the genuine poor got poorer. I have no sympathy with criminal underclass although everything should be dome to help the families of such individuals, including taking the rest or the whole family into public care in appropriate circumstances and conditions.

If this situation was not bad enough, for the Government to have allowed the continuation of obscene salaries and bonuses, especially in situations where public money was being used is outrageous and contemptible and what is extraordinary that they are so concerned with not losing face or admitting failure that they are prepared to alienate themselves further and further from public opinion.

The splendid Vince Cable and Kenneth Clark, also a lover of jazz and whisky and the good life were both on the panel of Any Questions last night with the feisty Tessa Jowell, the Olympics Minister.
There were also good excepts from across the Atlantic during the day as one Senator or Congressman told one of the responsible bankers what he and the public thought and felt about him. There was also three cheers for a Congress that is trying to impose a 90% tax premium on bonuses over a quarter of million paid in situation when public money has been used to keep the organisation from going bankrupt. For a major bank to go bankrupt is criminally negligent if it is as a result of corporate policies or corporate lack of effective management. The same applies to any agency with the task of monitoring and inspection of the financial “service” industry. All the principals in charge should resign or be sacked.
The This week politics show is getting too cosy again although earlier Andrew Neal was appropriately inquisitorial and abrasive on the Daily Politics with a government Minister before throwing in the towel, although he admitted that he was doing so.
This morning I decided to watch On the Waterfront, the film that brought Marlon Brando an Oscar and Rod Steiger, as his elder brother, Karl Malden as the priest and Lee J Cobb as the union head and racketeer, all best supporting actor Oscar nominations. Eve Marie Saint won support actress and the film-Producer, Sam Speigel, the director Elia Kazan, art direction Richard Day, writing, Budd Schulberg, photography Boris Kaufman and editing Gene Milford all won their respective Oscar nominations, a total of 8 wins and four other nominations which included Leonard Bernstein for the music score.

I first saw the film in theatre in the year it was on general release in the UK and when I was 15/16 and therefore did not appreciate the depth and level of acting until much later although I grasped the main issues of the story. Two images remained throughout the years. The finding of the destroyed pigeons and the final moments of the film. I did not appreciate the famous taxi scene until much later or the extent to which the story was on specific people and rather than a general situation, who were alive and who continued to racketeer or fight the criminality after the film was released.

First the film story. Marlon Brando plays Terry Malloy a former promising boxer who was ordered to throw a title chance fight by his older brother so that organised crime could make money betting on the long odds of the winner. He works regularly as a longshore man because his brother is the lawyer for the local criminal union boss, played by Lee J Cobb who is in league with the major crime bosses. The union organised and supported system is for the men to be chosen for work daily by someone on the basis they are willing to top slice their earnings to the union in addition to union dues and a willingness to work the way required, so for example agree to a walk out if he cargo is perishable so the cargo owners will pay a premium to have the produce released. Failure to cooperate resulted in being blacklisted throughout the dockland net work and talking out of turn was punishable by serious injury and death, very similar to the situation which exists still in parts of Northern Ireland to this day

The film opens with Terry being used to trick a friend to go to the roof of his tenement to take a missing pigeon that Marlon says he has recovered and from where the friend is thrown off to his death by hoodlums employed by the union boss because he was about to testify to an investigatory crime commission. Terry is shocked that he has been used in this way and has mixed emotions when he is taken from those doing the rough and heavy worker down in the holds of shops and given a well paid position on shore involving the minimum of work. He find himself even more torn after meeting the sister of murdered man whose widowed father had continued to find ways, with his son, to send his daughter away to a convent school. She is not only determined to find out the truth of what happened but is attracted to Marlon who tries to protect her from the reality of the situation while hiding his own guilty involvement. The catalyst for change is the local Catholic priest who decides to move out from his church and investigate what is happening at the dockside. He witnesses the humiliation and servitude. He calls a meeting and Terry is sent along to spy on what happens but ensures that the girl is protected when an attempt is made to break up the meeting held in the church and beat up all those attending. The priest persuades one of the men to give evidence to the crime commission but the evidence finds it way to union boss because some police and justice department and crime commission people are on the payroll. The consequence is that the man meets with a contrived fatal accident.

Because he had been identified as being present when his girl friend’s brother was killed, Terry is subpoenaed to appear before the Crime Commission and after talking things over with the priest he accepts the advice to tell Edie- Eva Marie Saint what happened. Understandably her immediate reaction is to reject him. When the mob, the union chief and his brother find out that Marlon is considering testifying his brother picks him up in taxi and the world wide recognised scene between the two takes place.

A special feature on the DVD revealed that the producer had only provided part of a taxi cab for the scene and there was no painted or proper back drop to make a proper shoot. The solution was to fit a blind to the rear window, something which in the reality did not exist, but it helped to create the intimacy of the scene. First the camera filmed both together and then there were separate takes with the two characters individually playing their roles to enable close ups and changes in emphasis. However when Marlon who went first finished he left the set. At the time Rod was angry to learn that this was because Marlon had become tired. The truth was he was heavily into psycho analysis at the time and had a daily appointment at 4 pm. Marlon’s Oscar performance was well earned because he successfully communicated a hard man, guilty of crimes under the influence of his elder brother who he looked up to but also was someone who was caring and tender, brought out in previous scenes with Edie and then with the destruction of the pigeons whose care he was taking after the death of the brother.

It is the famous taxi scene that his genius interacting with that of Rod Steiger came to everyone attention. It begins the moment that his brother pulls a gun on him urging him to accept a new big financial bribe but where it is also is clear he will use the weapon if Marlon persists with the intention to tell the truth before the Crime Commission. This leads Marlon to express his sense of further let down toward his older brother who instead of looking after him forced him to give up his only real chance of making something of his life and who was now indicating that he would participate in his killing if refused to do what was required by others. Brando rightly has been acclaimed for the range of emotions he expressed in this scene but too little praise has been given to Steiger who also revealed his resignation about what was to happen to him when he decided to let Marlon go and pretend to his bosses that he has not been able to find his brother.

When Marlon finds his brother shot and hung with a longshoreman’s hook his immediate reaction is to go and gun down those responsible, but he realises this is not the way after an appeal by the priest tells to the truth of what happened to the Crime Commission, and where with the union boss and his associates are summoned to listen before being arrested. They are bailed until their formal indictment and trial and in the meantime continue as before except they follow the rules and ensure that everyone presenting themselves for work is given job without the usual kickbacks, but with one exception Marlon. He calls on the union boss with his men and the two men fight but the henchmen of the union boss intervene beating Marlon into temporary oblivion. The men refuse to commence work unless Marlon walks in with them and the priest persuade Marlon to find the energy to get up, with help and the control of the men is broken.

The main events described in the film are an accurate portrayal of the situation which existed at he time the film was made and which continued after. The New York Sun had published a score of articles by Malcolm Johnson on the lives of the men, the corruption and criminality of the union bosses and their association with organised crime. Work was allocated only to those who paid their union dues and then contributed to the personal funds of the union gangsters and who also did what they were told and did not talk when they witnessed killings, beatings up and extortion. The men involved were practising Christians and the churches largely stood by but for one major exception.

Alberto Anastasia was the New York City Cosa Nostra Boss who founded Murder Incorporated, the contract killing gang. He was the father in law of Anthony Scotto the President of the International Longshoremen’s’ Association. He made a criminal name for himself through killing a work colleague and was originally sentenced to 18 months but was then released pending a new trial which never took place because four key witnessed disappeared permanently. He was gunned down in a barber’s show in 1957, a scene included in the Godfather in 1972. ( The fictional father of Toby Ziegler in the West Wing had been a member of Murder Incorporated. )

Michael Clemente known as Mike Costello and Big Mike, was in control of the East Side Waterfront from the 1950’s to the later 1970’s. His criminal records included rape, assault, disorderly conduct, conspiracy to violate state liquor laws and perjury. He was sent to prison for five years for extortion in relation to the various official positions held in the Longshoremen’s Association but he continued to run things while in prison after release through his assistants. In 1979 after undercover work he was convicted for 20 years for racketeering and corruption and removed from office in the Association He was released from prison shortly before his death in 1987. Aspects of his life and character were used to portray the Union boss in the film together plus others from Anastasia.

Father John M Corridan was a Jesuit priest who openly fought against corruption and organised crime on the New York Waterfront. Son of an Irish born policeman he was assigned to the Xavier Institute of Industrial Relations in Manhattan in 1946 and took up the cause of the longshoremen. Father Corrigan collaborated with the writer of the New York Sun exposures and he was then the subject of a book published in 1955 Waterfront Priest by Allen Raymond. Budd Schulberg who wrote the Waterfront script wrote the introduction to the biography. His work led directly to the formation of the New York, New Jersey Waterfront Commission but which proved ineffectual because of the intimidation and corruption and where the injustices continued for two further decades.

Father Corridan was moved by his order to teach economics and later theology. He also served as a Hospital Chaplin. He died in 1984 at the age of 73.

It is a great film but demonstrates such films have no impact on changing society and dangerously they can and do glorify gangsterism.

La Vie En Rose, Lots of War Films and my past

The sun, the walks, the unexpected discoveries have nicely counterbalanced the reality of the lives who require hospital treatment, and the impossible task of doctors, nurses and other staff who are expected to have a magic wand to the ready whatever the situation and its complexity.

On Sunay evening as I set off for Gateshead to watch La Mome: La Vie en Rose at the temporary Tyneside Film Theatre in the former Town Hall building, the sky above the Tyne was spectacularly darkening although when I left three hours later there was no trace of the anticipated cloudburst. There was a cold chill and I appreciated my forethought in bringing a coat in the car although it would have been better if I had then taken it into the Old Town Hall with me. It is an odd quirk that within the past week I have visited two former Town Halls in Sunderland, one in South Shields and one in Gateshead, with the latter being the most difficult to find.

The Tyneside Film Theatre occupies a warren of an old building close to the Theatre Royal in Newcastle and for the past 18 months it has been extensively remodelled with an addition floor height and I would be surprised if the work is completed before next summer. This was my first visit to its temporary location and it was well that I allowed plenty of time because before getting access to the car park at the front of the building whose stone work has been under wraps for an even longer period, I found myself doing circuits of the town and going over the main bridge into Newcastle, then having to take the short tunnel into the centre by pass before crossing over to take the reverse route in order to get back to where I had started. This enabled me to see the new pedestrian bridge which connects Northumbria University with its new campus on a site where there was a multiplex and restaurant complex and a large car park. Now there are modern full of glass university buildings towering above the dual carriageway. The bridge was pre constructed and put into place over a few days, is attractive to look at and improves the look of this part of the city, as do the new buildings, one of which suffered from a fire before completion.

Edith Piaf's life ended when I was in my first term at Birmingham University but I remember something of the publicity which surrounded her funeral with Paris acknowledged in numbers after the Catholic Church refused to give her a mass because of the life she had led. I also had heard her sing on the radio during my tesns and acquired a copy No Regrets issued in 1961, There was a time when I would have included this on the Myspace profile but I cannot say I agree with its sentiments anymore. Regrets I have had a few, Frank Sinatra My Way being more appropriate. Although in this biopic she is quoted as immediately adopting My Regrets on first hearing because it expressed what her life was about, the rest of film also makes the point that she was full of great regret.

I believed I knew the essentials of her life from various TV documentaries but I cannot remember if I have seen the Pam Gems show of the 1990's. The grave of Edith Piaf was visited at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery on my first visit to the city although I had driven the car there previously to catch the motor-rail south in the 1970's. She was also one whose profile I searched Myspace and where I selected the Bostonian Ziaf tribute group with snippets of four songs which includes Non je ne regrette and have kept faith with them since although it also time to remedy the absence of an original recording. However while I have always been fascinated by the story of her life apart from the handful of well known numbers such as Milord and No regrets, her repertoire of over 250 songs failed to engage because they are in a language I do not understand although I liked the sound of a voice reflecting the life she is known to have led.

The film was a great disappointment although Marian Cotillard is brilliant transforming her face and body from a teenage singing beggar on the streets and dives of Paris into the self inflicted middle aged wreck fearing death yet embracing it because she knew she could sing no more and hoped she would be reunited and make peace with those she had loved and lost. The Director Olivier Dahan decided against a chronological account switching constantly between the final moments of her life to her childhood and episodes in her rise to fame in order to try and communicate the essence of her being, and which he accomplished to a significant extent: the abandoned starving and sick girl; a life on the streets and among the brothels of Paris; the lack of any moral foundation and self control: the craving for a love with she could only find by pouring out her longing and past experience to adoring audiences when she sang live to the extent that she had to perform get this fix even when it accelerated the process of self destruction.

The film failed because despite its length it missed or skated over key aspects and the hold she had on Paris, France and younger contemporary singers.

Edith, named after Edith Cavell, Giovanna Gassion was born in the immigrant district of Belleville in 1915 to a 20 year old part Italian café singer mother from a Tuscan port who was then only 20, and a contortionist acrobat 15 years older than his wife. The film suggested to me that her mother had left Edith with a grandparent only after the disappearance of her husband and she needed to travel to get work, when in fact they both abandoned their baby child to a relative. It was father who then took the child to his mother who worked as a cook in a brothel in Normandy and the prostitutes helped to bring up the child, although one can assume that it was her mother who taught her to sing.

The film does cover the fact that she was allegedly blind for a time, but not that the period stretched for six years until she was fourteen, but is accurately shows that she was taken on a pilgrimage honouring Saint Therese de Lizieu and which the film suggests convinced Edith that the Saint was personally intervening in her life and which in turn convinced her that her prayers helped the subsequent reputed love of her life to win a world boxing title.

The film blatantly misleads by compressing early events to avoid having to use two child actresses portraying that she is only still a child waif when after World War 1 service her father takes Edith with him on his street work and finds that she has more pulling power with her voice than his own act. In fact she was a very worldly young woman of fourteen when she joined him, breaking with her father shortly after she commenced to have success, and bearing a child when she was sixteen from a relationship with a seventeen year old. The child died two years alter. The film does not mention this at all but does communicate that father, mother and Edith were lifelong alcoholics and which led their respective premature deaths.

Edith was joined on the streets and dives of Paris by her half sister and they enjoyed a wild life of sex, drink and drugs as some teenagers do today until discovery by Louis Leplee who had a club off the Champs Elysee of the kind that in London was frequented by the Kray twins and a leading Conservative politician. Edith combined singing in the club as La Mome Piaf, the waif, little or kid sparrow, with her life as the mistress of a pimp who she is said to have given the greater part of her income to avoid being just one of his other girls. One of her friends killed herself rather than submit to the boyfriend pimp and he then shot Edith when she tried to break up with him because of this. When Leplee was then found murdered it is not surprising that the police thought she was implicated because of her involvement with the criminal mobsters responsible.

For a time she was out of favour and then she had a "romantic" relationship with Raymond Asso which the film portrays as a love hate relationship professionally as he turned her from an untrained and unprofessional singing waif into Edith Piaf international singing sensation getting her to understand and act out her songs and arranging for Marguerite Monnot to create songs which depicted her previous life on the street.

The film effectively conveys that she then became a selfish and self indulgent Prima Donna and for once there is no reference to all the good charitable work which such individuals usually undertake to balance out their wilder excesses. Edith, now known as Edith Piaf developed a circle of well known friends such as Maurice Chevalier, the playwright Jean Cocteau, staring in one of his one act plays, and the poet Jacques Borgeat who wrote the lyrics of many of her songs. It is historical fact that she then discovered Yves Montand who became her lover and part of her stage performances until he became a leading performer in his own right and the relationship ended as quickly as it began. During the war she lived above a brothel frequented by German soldiers and some of her critics have suggested she was too friendly with the occupying power.

It was after the war that she became internationally recognised and commenced her visits to the USA, at first unsuccessfully but then with ongoing success, with two concerts at Carnegie Hall. It is during the transatlantic and European travels that she commenced a relationship with the married boxer Marcel Cerdan who Piaf and her biographers describe as the love of her life. He was killed in a plane crash in 1949 on his way to the USA for a rematch with La Motta whose world middle weight titled Cerdan had taken. I am not saying that she was not passionate about the man who made it known to her that he had no intention of leaving his wife and children. For me the love of a life means someone who cannot be replaced and I have known several women, or of several women, one the fiancée of a first cousin, who never married because of the sudden death of a loved one usually in one of the two world wars.
In the instance of Piaf she married the singer Jacques Pills three years later, divorcing him four years after that and then six years later married the Greek hairdresser, singer actor Theo Sarapo in 1962, aged 26 and twenty years her junior.
There is no doubt that Edith was a passionate woman whose life continued to act out her music. In 1951 she was severely injured in a car accident involving Charles Aznavour, whose career she was also instrumental in launching. However she was also involved in two other near fatal car accidents and throughout her later life was addicted to morphine injections and continuing dependency on excessive alcohol. The film ends with her 1961 save the Olympia concert which launched Non je ne regrette rien, although she continued to work with her final Olympia concert in 1962 and final record L'homme de Berlin in April 1963. She was driven back to Paris by her husband from Grasse where she had a home, allegedly after her death. Alas the structure of the film failed to work for me and failed to communicate the extent to which she became a leading contemporary icon.

I decided to wash and shave in the midst of writing this and listened to a writer who is regarded as the most sold world wide author in the UK of books for adults as opposed to those written for children, some twenty five million, who confessed that the only thing she really liked was writing or talking about writing, and therefore disliked everything else, and only stopped when her family demanded that she given them attention. I know only too well what she meant but like Piaf I enjoy the good things of life too much to be able to just work, although nothing like her excesses. I suspect intentionally and unintentionally all three of us fuelled our myths and legends although in this we are not alone and has become the thing do if you want achieve success in the arts, become a successful politician or public personality.

I am making the time to read the Jarrow Crusade: Protest and Legend, by Matt Parry, History Lecturer at Sunderland University, Sunderland University Press 12.95; a remarkable work because of its insight into the nature of power, government at national and local level, political parties in and out of government, on the complexity of being a party politician, especially when a Minister, on the sometimes duplicitous role of trade unions and their full time politically ambitious paid leadership, on the undemocratic role of newspaper media, and its individualistic owners as organs of the establishment, influenced only by advertisers, on the blatant misuse of position by hierarchical religious leaders whose actions and statements can be shown as unchristian and unforgiving in contrast to some atheists, on the impact of sectarianism and tribalism, on the nature of protest, and above all or the nature of capitalism and work and on the different perspectives about starvation income if you are a child, or a parent who is without adequate accommodation, food, clothing and opportunity to change your circumstances

I appreciate that this says more about my interpretation of the work than its author's likely intentions although I hope to test this out with him directly when the reading is completed having read only 109 of its 264 pages to-date.
The work sets out to separate fact from fiction and explains how and why the Crusade has become more Myth and Legend, taking away attention from the other hunger marches, including one from the North East who were travelling to London at the same time.
Apart from an interest in the general issues which the work raises, I had a parallel experience of an involvement in a peace march travelling in the opposite direction only two decades later which also attempted to gain support for a cause along the route, relying on the response of local activists to also provide accommodation and food. Similar to the Jarrow march there was a control over participants but support was welcome from anyone or interest who shared its main objective. Unlike the Jarrow Crusade which emphasised its constitutional and democratic objectives the purpose of march to Holy Loch was to engage in non violent civil disobedience direct action. Two years ago, perhaps it was longer, I read a thesis about the role and effectiveness of the non violent civil disobedience Direct Action Committee (which appointed me as at temporary organiser for the Holy Loch march after I pushed the idea thought up with colleagues while doing our time in Stafford nick) and the Committee 100 which I was only asked to join after a number of original members dropped out when they realised they would be going into the front line, and which I then resigned after discovering that people were being encouraged to sign up, by Lord Russell's left hand man, or was he more right handed, who had no intention of participating in a demonstration where the committee had set a minimum number to go ahead, and where Lady Russell on behalf of her husband rejected my protest expressing their confidence in the individual. Interestingly I was not approached by the writer of the thesis. Similarly I read an article written by an expert on naval matters who claimed the authorities were able to forestall the Holy Loch demonstrators because their efforts to get hold of the plans. The facts are on behalf of the Direct Action Committee I made appointments with all the local police chiefs to advise of our intentions with varying responses. That for Clydebank appointed a liaison Inspector who asked how many men were like to be needed to facilitate the march, offering to stop the traffic rather than the usual request to limit the width and separate into blocks; for Inverclyde Greenock and Gourock under political instruction I was invited to meet three chief officers to ensure that the authority provided appropriate support while at Dunoon which covered the civil disobedience action, a meeting with the police was arranged by a local member of the national committee of the Scottish CND, and I agreed to a stenographer so that an appropriate record could be kept and which led to a letter from the Commander of the Flagship Scotland indicating that our intentions were fool hardy as well as illegal and that appropriate consequences would follow. I have it still.

How much of written history is truth and how much myth and legend depends on the perspective and interests of participants, of their written records, those of other contemporary observers and commentators and then of those who collate the available information and who then interpret against wider perspectives, personal interests and intentions.

I was interviewed by a local journalist for a national daily who admitted his brief was to do everything possible to undermine support for the project and the published piece reflected this but not his personal views and our balanced discussion, and which was different from the position of journalist of another national daily who was embedded with the marchers and proclaimed that the demonstration was a great success and would be covered throughout the world, and which it was.

One reason why I have not made as much progress with the excellent work on the Jarrow Crusade as I wanted is that I broke off to watch a programme about British Film making in relation to war. The programme had started when I switched on and over, but I managed to catch the moment when Alexander Korda is said to have persuaded Churchill not to close the cinemas because film could be used to maintain morale, gain support for the war effort and have educational and propaganda impact. He then created The Lion has Wings 1939 in order to demonstrate the different values of the UK and Nazism although aspects of the film will have unintentionally convinced the Germans of that they would have an easy victory.

"In which we serve" is loosely based on the naval life of Lord Mountbatten whose ship HMS Kelly, built at Hebburn South Tyneside, was sunk during the battle of Crete and was director debut for Noel Coward who also starred, and for David Lean, and screen acting debut for Richard Attenborough. Juliet Mills briefly appeared in the film as the fictional son of the character played by her father and Daniel Massey, playing the son of Noel Coward ,then appeared in the film Star in 1968 playing Noel Coward. The film accurately showed British society divided at that time by class and sexual biology but also emphasised the importance of everyone working together in common cause and pushing above their normal weight. It was given an honorary Oscar.

"Went the Day well" warned of the potential enemy within when a group of soldiers take over a village only to be discovered as Germans on an advance party for the invasion. The village Squire is shown to be a German spy and the village telephonist is shown killing a soldier and then being killed in a reality which is more effective than many branded horror films of today. The 49th Parallel covers a group of German submariners attempting to get home seeking the support of German emigrants in Canada but this community rejects their former countrymen because of the different values. The film was designed to encourage USA participation on the side of the British Empire and Russia.

In the "A Matter of Life and Death made immediately after the war science fiction techniques of two decades later are used to explore issues of an afterlife using a court of celestial beings in uniform, civil and military, of American UK relationships and of the comparative powerlessness of the law when confronted by selfless love. The film was the first Royal Command Performance and made at a time when millions were coping with the fact that parents, sons and daughters, loved ones would not be returning to celebrate the peace. The issue of social and nationalistic attitude is also explored in the film the Life and Death of Colonel Blimp wonderfully played by Roger Liversey who also stars in a A matter of life and Death, both films directed and produced by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and with Anton Walbrook in the former and David Niven in the latter, or vice versa.

Although Colonel Blimp is a Low comic strip character the film script is original and commences when our hero is out smarted in a Home Guard war game in which the other team wins by refusing to play by the rules. Young Blimp wins the VC during the Boer War and then goes to Germany after receiving a request for help from an English teacher concerned about the spread of anti English propaganda, and who then marries a German officer after fighting a duel with Blimp who unintentionally insults the whole German army. In the first world war Blimp again triumphs on the premise that the Allies won because might is right. During the period he meets and marries a nurse who resembles Edith. After the war he searches for the German Officer Theo who initially snubs the overture from his former friend and after release from a POW camp returns to Germany, unrepentant. In the second world war the former German officer works in England, estranged from his children who are part of the Nazi ideological system. Colonel Blimp saves the manr from internment and the film communicates that while Blimp is still locked in his old order attitudes it is the former German officer who understands the nature of modern warfare and this is brought home to who Blimp finds that his young driver who also looks like Edith, which is not surprising as all three are played by the same actress, has given away his exercise plans to her boyfriend who leads the opposing and winning team.

Blimp and by implication the rest of old England wake up to the reality that in order to win the war the same methods as the enemy will have to be used. The role of the Home Guard was subsequently brought back into reality through the comic series Dads Army which is still shown today.

A different kind of reality was achieve with Millions Like US set in an aircraft engineering factory and hostel where called up young women from all walks of life were sent to make their contribution, which included receiving the dreaded Telegram. Post War Films like the Cruel Sea and Morning Departure, the latter where I and my cousins got some of the last seats at the back of a 4000 seat theatre in Croydon after queuing through the first feature, began to bring the reality of fighting to the general public, but we still needed hero's to help justify what had happened and Reach for the Sky, the story of Douglas Bader who returned to flying after losing both his legs and Carve her name with pride which followed the story of one young women flown into enemy territory, and who with two others were executed towards the end of the war after capture and torture .reassured about the willingness of individuals to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of ideals and their countrymen and countrywomen.

The continuing belief in standards and respecting the professionalism of enemy soldiers has been immortalised through another frequently repeated classic Ice Cold in Alex, now also the banner for cold lager manufacturers and where after turning in a captured enemy officer who shared their desert crossing ordeal they insist on sharing a drink with him before he is incarcerated. It was years later before adequate recognition was given to the bravery and intelligence of the enemy with the British Film The one who got away where a German flying officer who nearly gets home with an experimental plane, before being sent to Canada where he again escaped y jumping from a moving train, before getting to the USA where he was again held and escaped via Mexico back to Germany where he fought again until disappearing in a subsequent mission.

While One of our aircraft is missing 1942 showed the courage of the Dutch in helping to get home the shot down crew of an RAF Bomber, the TV series Secret Army is the master class for the role of the underground networks to return aircrew and escaped POW's to the UK to fight again just as Tenko is the benchmark for the role of women in Japanese POW camps. The classic film in relation to man under Japanese captivity is the Bridge of the River Kwai which also emphasised the dangers of sticking to values without taking account of all the implications and contemporary context. A Town Like Alice combined the heroism of British Women and that of an Australian POW with its top 100 happy endings of all time

As the 20th century progressed and new generations without any personal experience of homeland wartime came to the fore, the good and bad guy war film was questioned as well as a military hierarchy which was able to get away with anything in the name of discipline and keeping good order. The Hill is a good example of the latter, while The Bridge too far shows what happens when the planners and intelligence get it wrong. Within the space of four decades we had moved from the futility of over the top trench war with Oh What a Lovely War to the post nuclear holocaust with The War Game which the BBC commissioned and refused to show for several decades, Dr Strangelove in which one member of the Goon show, Peter Sellers played several parts onto the Bed Sitting Room which is pure Goonland Spike Milligan, and to Zulu and the Charge of the Light Brigade, in which brave young men were required to surrender their lives against overwhelming odds as historical precursors to the fields of Flanders.

Time to Leave and Jambon Jambon

I have witnessed the death of a human being twice, the first occasion I did not understand what was happening, not that I could have dome anything to save the individual given subsequent information, but I felt I ought to have been better prepared. The second, because it was premature and preventable and the subject of continuing investigation at my request, has to be for future publication.

I have never felt close to my own death in a physical sense and once when I unintentionally switched the lights off a new car going round a bend in a country lane, there was that second when I mentally prepared for pain and death, but I was calm without panic or fear. similar as when another prisoner put an arm lock around my neck, or when hosed with others in a boat on a Scottish Loch and I could not swim, there was an absence of what most will regard as "normal" feeling because of preparing myself for all eventualities, and being in what can be described as a sense of grace. I had no conscious wish to experience pain or die but accepted the possible consequences of my actions.

There have been two situations of feeling powerlessness, lonely, outside of the "normal" experience of others, bordering on despair at the circumstances, of seeing no light however flickering, and when the thought of an end briefly occurred, once just outside of teens and once in middle life, and once in later life there were the same broad situation except of feeling not outside the "normal" experience but totally within it. However on none of these occasions was the feeling of self pity and wanting to make some gesture for recognition, or of anger and wanting to hurt others, and throughout my life I have possessed the conviction that all life is important, has its own value and that to bring to an end unnaturally is wrong, any can only be justified by those authorised by a society in its self defence, or when authorised to act in the self defence of others who are not in a position to defend themselves.

During 2002 I developed a sense that before seeking new life experience I ought to re-experience my life before recording my recollection of the original experience and my contemporary response to the re-experience together with what memories remained of the original events. It was a form of preparation for my own death, but a concept and not as a physical or overwhelming reality.

Last night, Saturday 25th August 2007, I decided to view a DVD Time to Leave, provided from a list submitted to an internet club because it starred Jeanne Moreau and as there was no film release date on the sleeve, and the film title was unknown, as was the director (or so I thought), I had no sense of expectation. I was immediately engaged with emotions, and apart from one short break of a couple of minutes concentrated my being although immediately reacted adversely to the central character who has no redeeming qualities, and something which the Director explained in an interview was a key element in his concept for the film.

The film is about our reaction to being officially informed we are going to die. In this instance from medical causes and I contrasted his character and situation with that of Sophie Scholl who courageously took on her government and paid the price of her convictions being executed during World War Two for the distribution of leaflets and being part of a group who believed Nazism was wrong and unchristian.

The anti hero of Time to Leave, who could as easily have contracted AIDS from indiscriminate sex, or liver damage from excessive alcohol, or from an overdose of bad stuff, is given the news that his average expectation is three months, perhaps as little as a month, or a year, but no longer and that there was less than a five percent chance that treatment would work. Given that this is a man who appears to have no respect for his parents, behaves abominably towards his loving sister, detests her and all children, and rejects and throws out his medium term sexual partner, one begins by asking if one really cares if he survives more than a few weeks, except that it will bring grief to his parents and those who care for him despite his behaviour and outlook.

His occupation is the first clue that this is a more complex and more interesting human being. As a photographer he uses the camera as a shield against direct involvement or engagement with the feelings of others except professionally armed with a camera he can penetrate into the emotional experiences of others, although his world is the comparatively safe and socially unnecessary activity of fashion which has no value to anyone other than economic.

His first reactions are conventional, anger, frustration and denial, He wants to communicate his new situations to his lover, and his family but he does not how to break down the barrier he has created between them and instead behaves in such a way that if they were not his parents and sister, his rejection would be absolute. His solution is to go to see his grandmother, an unconventional woman, but he is able to communicate because she is old and therefore facing death, such is the arrogance of the young who think age makes a difference although admittedly death is easier to prepare yourself for if you believe that you have lived to accomplish some of the dreams and goals which you, or others, set for you. There is no evidence that how we approach the final moment of self conscious awareness is affected by our age, although it is by how we have lived and what we believe in, and what we do not. The obvious exception is when we are too young to understand that we are dying. This is an important point because the biggest single group vulnerable to an untimely and unnatural death in the UK are children under one year in their own homes. The second group, as expectedly are young men and women, although overall the number has decreased during the past decade and with the least likely group are the very old, although they are the group that tend to fear most being attacked in the street at night or in their homes.

The experience of visiting his grandmother changes how he views himself and others. She is played by Jeanne Moreau who is able to communicate all her life's experience into what is a minor part in terms of length of appearance in the film, but whose contribution is pivotal, although it also has to be said all the acting is of a superior quality in part because of the creative and artistic role of the film's Director

At the conclusion of the visit, his grandmother gives a small bunch of beautiful freshly cut flowers which becomes an emblem for the film and for his life as they commence to wither. After the visit he begin to squeeze and savour every magical wondrous moment of life. He also begins to make peace with others, with varying degrees of success and in so doing he begins to make peace with himself. There is one situation which in less sensitive hands could easily have degenerated into soft porn and which instead becomes a beautiful and magnificent affirmation of life and its continuity after individual death. The film ends in a beautiful and imaginative way.
Sometimes after an important experience, there is need to digest by doing something different, or digesting, savouring the feelings aroused blocking out fresh experience. Tonight I examined what else was on the DVD and this was such a good decision because of 90 minutes of the director talking in English about his life and work, a documentary about the film creativity, and some deleted scenes, each additional segment enriching the experience. It was only after checking out Director Francois Ozon's flimography I found that in 2001 and 2003, I enjoyed two other of his films, 8 Women at Bolden UGC (after some moronic teenagers had left after grasping that the film was in French with subtitles, and The Swimming Pool also at a UGC but on this occasion in London during a visit to see my mother. I may have viewed others, but the Swimming Pool remains vivid as do some images from 8 Women, Time to Leave was made in 2005. I will make the effort to view all his films because what he has to say and the way he says it is of great importance to me.

The artistic nature of photography and how to handle potentially controversial subjects was the point of a made for TV True story on Satellite TV earlier in the week. The court Room drama, Dirty Pictures tells what happened when Dennis Barrie (James Woods) director of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Centre booked an exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe after the work had been cancelled by the Washington Corcoran Gallery because of controversy surrounding the inclusion two photographs of naked children and of adult sexual acts involving sado-masochism and homosexuality. A local jury dismissed both sets of charges despite a biased judge, a fanatical public prosecutor, the evident abuse and misuse of legal proceedings and the abuse, and attempted blackmail and bribery of the Director and his family. A reviewer gives the film seven out of ten because of its bravery in tackling the subject in an equally explicit and challenging way showing the photographs as a part of the full exhibition work with the end credits. I was less enthusiastic, because the judge and the prosecutor and their witnesses were portrayed as one dimensional beings, whereas Barrie and his family were allowed more rounded personalities, full of contradictions and conflicting interests. The film also used real people clips such as Salmon Rushdie, who says, "If you cannot defend what to you is unpalatable, then you do not believe in free speech. You only believe in free speech for those who agree with you." The boy in one of the two photos was also interviewed, when a young man, to express that he had enjoyed being photographed with parental approval and that the public showing of the photograph had not affected his life. I imagine the outcome of the case would be very different to-day, not because of the adult images which have become common place in contemporary art galleries and art publications around the world, but because of our knowledge about the misuse of photographing nude children and then exhibiting pictures over the internet. When I was a boy every barber shop had a few well thumbed copies of Health and Beauty, or some similar title which featured naked families as well as National Geographic which featured those of different lands and skin colours.

There is no doubt that child and adult porn has influenced some individuals to commit depraved acts which cause lifetime damage to the victims used to create the images and films. However societies everywhere should be as concerned about the explosion of violent internet, TV and console games and films which extol psychopathic behaviour, behaviour in which individuals are killed without emotion because they are regarded the enemy or obstacles. I am disappointed but not surprised that Gordon's Brown's government has reacted in the way as Tony's following the tragic death on a football man eleven year old in Liverpool, returning home from playing with friends. More attempted crowd pleasing gesture which will prove as inconsequential as others of a similar nature. Thirty years ago I started to draw attention that leaving Liverpool one Winter's evening in a convoy after watching my time suffer defeat at Everton, hundreds of children and adolescents in groups of three to six had appeared from behind cars and walls and pelted the coaches for several miles as we left the city heading north for the M6, breaking windows. It was evident this was a cultural sport ignored by the police and parents in the city. Fifteen years later I made a visit to the city as a professional adviser to the local government Drugs Forum when drug gang culture was moving downwards from young adults to teenage school children and considerable energy and funding was being directed into redesigning housing developments and facilities for young people at the same time as local authority accountants under Treasury financial dictatorship were encouraging the sale of school playing fields and general education was switching away from teaching life skills to passing examination in subjects which were to be of little value to the majority after school leaving. In the last decade we have seen the dramatic growth in gambling shops, tanning parlours, and youth centred drinking facilities in every high street town centre. Cheap alcohol is also available in vast quantity at every supermarket outlet and older brothers and some parents are only too willing to supply those who in their early teens. My mother and her sister lived in a small block of flats and the teenage mother in the same block was seen doing this on several occasions to her friends and their younger brothers and sisters. Every day a child is killed somewhere on our roads and there is no mention, and every day hundred of children die unnecessarily somewhere from starvation and disease.

My other film this week was Bigas Luna's Jamon Jamon, the 1992 film in which the physical charms of Penelope Cruz first came to international attention. At the end of the film two men attempt to batter each other, one successfully, with legs of ham. The film is a comic portrayal of Spain after Franco in much the same vein as Almodovar in which the bar running mother of Ms Cruz educates the boyfriend fiancée who wishes to become a bullfighter as she has his father in the past, while the father has a yen for the daughter who has been made pregnant by his son, but who has a yen for a stud who is paid by the wife to seduce the girl when she does not know the girl is pregnant but who then takes the stud as her lover.

For some incomprehensible reason foreigners, including the British tend to regard the paella as the national dish of Spain. I am supplied by Spanish goodies by where it is possible to purchase an authentic Jambon from £75 7 Kg's and cured over 16 months to £399 for 8 Kg's cured over 36 months. 100 grams of a quality cut is available for £9.25. The traditional way to create these hams is to roll the leg in salt on a table called saladero and leave for several weeks. The salt is then carefully washed away and hung on rafters to cure or dry with the minimum amount of salt so as to make the meat taste sweet, The ideal location for the hanging is an open windowed room to allow the cold winter air to blow throw although today most are factory produced and a left to cure in special cold stores, as in the film. It reported that a proportion of the hams fail to cure properly but for the rest they are said to spice up the natural passions. The average Spaniard will find Jamon Jamon fun until the ending which will be regarded as a sacrilegious misuse of hams. Death has many faces but it is something we all experience.

Renaissance,Another Public Enemey, Age of Innocence and Martin Scoresese

The time is approaching when I should view the Martin Scorsese films in the same dimension as those of Ingmar Bergman, although he satisfies a different range of interests and previous experience. Last night I enjoyed The Age of Innocence 1993 and it was only this morning after reading the information on his dedicated site and on the IMDB database that I appreciated the depth and breath of his contribution to the development of the essentially American cinema and that I have seen the majority of his films. There was Mean Streets 1973, Alice doesn't live here anymore 1974 before he rose to international fame with Taxi Driver 1976. The Last Waltz 1978 and then Raging Bull 1980, and The Last temptation of Christ 1988 which came after the Colour of Money 1986. Goodfellas 1990 and Cape Fear 1991 were made before the Age of Innocence and then Casino 1995 and my personal favourite where I have the DVD Kundun 1997 about Tibet and the Dali Lama and then the Gangs of New York, the film I have liked least, and the Aviator 2004 which I enjoyed. There are several others of his 45 feature films and associated enterprises as Director which I think I have also experienced but will need to do further research and some viewing. There are four projects completed, in post production and announced yet to come,In addition there are 31 Producer Credits, 24 acting performances, 13 writing a handful of others plus Editing work including the 25 anniversary edition of Woodstock, and some other film work including photographer. Before saying something more about the Age of Innocence, there have been two DVD's to comment further, one I thoroughly enjoyed and consider a good film, although it received mixed critical attention and the other while I disliked but it likely to become a cult landmark development.

I begin with Renaissance, a film which you like or hate there is no grey, literally because this is a film where everything is a mixture of black and white and no grey scale. Once you adjust to the novelty the result is irritating and pointless. Its second claim to originality is the way real actors are required to perform with electronic camera points which enable their real movement to be converted into animations which in my judgement is a waste of time. The fact that animation films in general are given voice-overs by recognisable established actors has never impressed me and defeats the purpose which is to create a different type of film. By all means bring comic book and children's story adventures to life using the latest techniques but it is important they retain their form and uniqueness, something which Sin City was able to do, in that the story engaged and the format enriched rather than took over the film. I suspect others will have a different viewpoint.

Another Public Enemy is a Korean film made in 2005 and is 2 hours and 28 minute mixture of ex classmates with a score to settle, and a public prosecutor uncovering corruption which goes to the top of government, media and the established power structure. The task of the ex classmate public prosecutor follows a well trodden route, under pressure from superiors, doubted by subordinates, yet commanding their loyalties, despite unconventional methods, because he leads from the front, taken of the case, then reinstated and finally getting his man who has arranged the deaths of his facility and anyone else stopping his quest for power, wealth and escape beyond the reach of the law. I might try and watch the original production, Public Enemy, sometime, someday.

It is a different reaction to the Bourne Trilogy, the first two seen in theatre and the third now on general release, and the first being watched on TV. It remains the kind of film where much to the detail is not remembered after one viewing by the likes of me, but various images and emotional responses are. Again there are stock features, a man without memory, finds that he is an assassin, but you know immediately that he really is a good guy and was never in control of what he did, under the control of bad guys who work for the good guys. Because of fate there is a good girl who become involved in such a way that reinforces that the action hero is really a hero when he is prepared to sacrifice himself to ensure that the girl can live freely. The film ends on a Greek Island. Oh to be young again and off to an Island of Greece. I will be able to return when the second film is shown again on Tuesday. Unfortunately I remember the reality of what then happens, and which brings me to the Age of Innocence, and which in turn is even better than the works of Merchant Ivory. A wife in the wrong marriage escapes to her relatives in New York City in the 1870's only to find that "society" is conventional with appearance being everything and any hint of impropriety leads immediately to social ostracism and ruin. She the woman Countess Ellen Olenska Michelle Pfeifer who is assigned a young corporate/family lawyer to advise her on what is best which does not involve divorce and where if she cooperates the family will; accept and support her in society.

He, Newland Archer, Daniel Day Lewis is engaged to her cousin May played by Winona Ryder who is the perfection of good manners and appearances but when he presses for the marriage to be brought forward, she is suspicious that she is second best to a greater passion unaware, until it is too late, that it is an unconsummated passion, sizzling in its refined innocence.. It is no surprise to learn that Mary Wharton's novel won the Pulitzer prize 1920 after the youth of European and North American nations slaughtered each other pointlessly over four years.

There are two ways of viewing this film. One is that of heroic doing what is right even if means individual lives are sacrificed for some ideal and greater good. The other is the waste, the pain, the suffering when a mutual passion is rejected. It is very much my subject, with the added layers of misunderstanding and communication failures. The film is sumptuous in conveying the mood, with Bernstein adding the music and are a host of class actors adding to its strength. Unlike my characters Wharton and Scorsese have given us two people who communicate and understand at every possible level, and that is the magnificent tragedy for them but also a message of support and hope for all those who bravely endure in silence and without recognition.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Ingmar Bergman Death Reported

Ingmar Bergman died recently aged 89 and one of my few regrets as I approach my three score years and ten is that I did not experience his work as my life progressed and that it is only over the past two years that I have been enriched and enlightened by the greatest artist in portraying fundamental questions of the human condition in the most profound spiritual and psychological depths. And yet there is also the awareness that had I experienced some of films earlier I would have unable to appreciate their intellectual greatness, or been unable to complete a viewing because of their emotional intensity.

Tonight having unintentionally slept during the evening and uncertain if I should go to bed, work or be entertained, I was about to channel hop the satellite when I discovered that the BBC was showing a programme on his work, using the three people he granted interviews over his last four decades, our Melvyn Lord Bragg, writer and documentary maker about the arts, French film maker Olivier Assayas and Swedish film maker Marie Nyrerod whom Bergman gave his longest interview when retired to Faro Island in Baltic Sean. It is she who provided the first clue to why her country produced such a genius. Sweden is a cold sparsely populated land for most of the year, so that its people are restricted to their homes and they look into themselves and each other.

But it was first Melvyn Bragg and then Olivier Assayas who made my heart leap with delight as they spoke of their first experience as very young men of being swept off their feet by young Harriet Anderson in Summer with Monika, and although attracted by young love during the beautiful Swedish summer, something I also experienced as a young man for two brief weeks in 1963, they both were aware of something deeper happening which they only able to comprehend later.

Bergman admitted that he was afraid of death, but not of life, and yet he lived alone on his Island listening classical music because it gave him a sense of some force greater than human existence, yet those who found his film work gloomy, such as film maker Ken Russell, say more about themselves because in fact of his all his works one can be said to be pessimistic, Winter Light which is about the loss of faith by a priest, a subject which has interested since discovering just before my 60th birthday who my father had been.

I have yet to experience all his works and there are some important omissions which I hope to remedy before I too face that final moment of human self aware consciousness.

I pause to find the list of films watched against the list of films to view on to find that its opening screen is now a series of photos. Having also read some of the obituaries and feature articles, it is evident that most touch on only those works which have become well known, which appealed the writer and that only those who have systematically studied his work in chronological sequence against what was japanning in the cinema in each decade can appreciate what a giant he was, writing and directing over forty full length films, writing the script for another dozen and directing over 125 works in the theatre including Shakespeare, Ibsen, Tennessee Williams, Chekov , over 25 TV film dramas, with separate television productions of his two most important works on marital relationships, Scenes from a Marriage 1973 and his last work both for TV and Film in 2003 Saraband together with his longest running film work Fanny and Alexander 1982/1983 and over forty works for radio commencing in 1944 when I was five years of age and which means he created between three and four works throughout sixty years of working.

Many of his early films were released with different titles depending on the language version and of the seven released in the 1940's my experienced list has the first Crisis, Port of Call and Three Strange Loves. It was the 1950's when I became a teenager that he came to world wide attention with Summer with Monika/Monika 1953 and which I did not see until I was sixteen in my first year of working in central London and attending Promenade concerts for the time at the Royal Albert Hall and basements jazz clubs in or near Soho. This beautifully photographed film is about the reality of young infatuation and sex in which the young man is left to look after their child. I have now also seen Waiting Women/Secrets of Women 1952 and A Lesson in Love 1954, The Magician 1958 and his most well known, the Seventh Seal 1957, which I saw at the time and several time son TV, one of his films about spirituality and the possible nature of God, But the film from this period where I have seen six of thirteen which I rank as one his most important because of its theme is Wild Strawberries 1957 about an old man preparing fro death and looking back on his life,

I have also seen the Virgin Spring his first film release of the 1960's, but not recently, Through a Glass Darkly 1961 one of his important works on mental health issues, The Silence 1963, Winter Light also 1963, Personna 1966 and Shame 1968, six of eleven of that decade. Only three films of the nine created in the 1970's Cries and Whispers 1972, but the other two are the great psychological dramas of the cinema. Autumn Sonata 1978 is the most painful psychologically and emotionally intense films about the nature of being a creative woman who is also a mother and on the relationship between all daughters and their mothers. It is not recommended for any woman who has major unresolved issues as a mother in relation to their daughter and vice versa. It has the most extraordinary performance of Ingrid Bergman before her death, portraying the guilt ridden mother who chooses to continue with her declining life as a concert virtuoso and Liv Ullman gives one of the greatest, if not the greatest acting performances on screen as the daughter desperate for her mother's love and recognition, and honest communication, tells the truth on one of the most excruciating painful moments ever to be screened.

It does not surprise me that Sweden's top marital counsellor approached Bergman for advice after watching the television version of Scenes from a Marriage which has Liv Ullman as the devastated wife and Erland Josephson the errant husband. Although this film stands on its own putting such other work such as Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton into perspective, it his decision to create the sequel Saraband as his last film in 2003, an which also towers above all other work as a monument about having relationships when one is old that viewed together, but with a break for a good meal and several glasses of wine, that should convince any remaining doubter about his unfailing brilliance. The film again features Liv and Erland, meeting up after thirty years in real time and sharing one night together in the most beautiful of tender love scenes ever screened. It also covers the relationship between fathers and their sons, and fathers and their daughters with the same brutal sincerity and truth as Autumn Sonata.

Of his last four films I did see the short version of Fanny and Alexander before, but the full four hour length edition only recently. I bore everyone with reminding that what we do and say and who we do it with or say to, lives with you and them for eternity, an this for me is the subject of the film, together with " be careful what you wish for, because those the Gods wish to punish they will grant what is asked of them." I am yet to find out if Bergman died alone and how he faced his final moments. I hope he remembered his gift to people such as me and to the future of humanity.