Category Archives: Britain

‘Neville Rumble’ (2013) – useful contacts!

A colleague of mine at school recently revealed that he was making films, which is always lovely to hear, especially in the local area. He lent me a copy of his most recent work – ‘Neville Rumble’ a full-length, well-made film that has some great performances and a gripping storyline. I’m hoping I can get involved in some way for his next picture, even if it’s just previewing it.

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Screenwriting 5

The assignment this week was to help us start using dialogue. We had to put our main character in a greasy spoon cafe. Unfortunately, all of the screenplay formatting I had done on my google drive has gone, but hopefully you get the gist…

OUTSIDE ‘DAVE’S CAFE’ NEXT TO A BUSY ROAD. IT’S NINE ON A COLD, GREY BRITISH MORNING.
Lara is about to enter the cafe, but hesitates fractionally before doing so.

INSIDE THE CAFE, WHICH HAS THE RADIO ON. IT IS A UTILITARIAN PLACE WITH LAMINATED TABLE TOPS AND INDUSTIAL SIZED BOTTLES OF KETCHUP.
Lara looks around, a little unsure. She is well aware of how much she sticks out and therefore studies the menu board intensely.

DAVE – CAFE OWNER
What can I get you darling?

Lara bridles a little at the familiarity, but also faintly warms to the affectionate name, like a stranger in a foreign land

LARA
Oh, um… Please could I have a cup of tea?

DAVE
I think we can manage that. I’ll bring it over.

He turns to get her order.

LARA
Oh, sorry, do you have Earl Grey?
(As soon as she has said this, she knows she shouldn’t have. It’s a stupid affectation and makes her even less comfortable in the environment)

DAVE
No love, sorry. Just the standard builders’ tea.

LARA
Oh, ok. Ummm…. That’ll be fine.
(It’s not fine, but she knows she already looks like a fool and would trust the coffee even less)

DAVE
Anything else?

LARA
A couple of pieces of toast please.
(If she is going to have to sit here with the thick tea, she may as well have something else to not consume with it.)

DAVE
£2.20 please love. I’ll bring it over when it’s ready.

She hands over a £20 note.

DAVE
(With a sigh) anything smaller?

Lara starts furiously hunting for change by upturning the entire contents of her bag. She is getting redder in the face and more flustered. Dave, knowing this will be a fruitless search, simultaneously starts sorting out change from the till and as she looks up and shakes her head, he hands her £17.80 in coins. Lara shamefacedly takes this in her hand while trying to clutch all her dislodged possession under her arm and finds a table as far away from everyone else as possible. She sits down and tries to reassemble everything and restore some of her dignity.

New beginnings… but I’ve not forgotten

It's been a Richard heavy summer...

It’s been a Richard heavy summer…

I am writing this from my new office! I have never had my own desk as a teacher before, so it is very exciting. I’m not sure this is what they wanted me to be doing on my second day, but as everyone else has gone home and I have been here for over nine hours, I’m not going to worry about it.

I am now… (drumroll) … the head of English at John Cleveland College, a massive GCSE and A Level college. This is lovely and I was definitely ready to move on from my last school, but it means that I am no longer in charge of media and film and can’t persuade myself that watching all and any film is professional development. It’s all about boring old books now…

To prepare for this new challenge (and I’m pretty sure it is going to be a crazy challenge) I have had a pretty restful summer. My main reading has been Richard Burton books – both a biography and his diaries. This was all sparked by watching three programmes on the BBC about five weeks ago; the new dramatisation of the Burton/Taylor production of ‘Private Lives’ with Helena Bonham-Carter and Dominic West, a programme about Burton’s diaries and a two hour documentary about the making of ‘Cleopatra’. All of the programmes were great and I also really loved the books. I still don’t think I know anymore about his acting, or understand it, or especially like him, but it was amazing to learn about the crazy fame he had.

Anyway, this resting, holidaying and Burton reading has meant that I haven’t done any top 100 films this summer, but I am still hoping to work on them and have about five sitting by my telly to get on with. It just depends on the crazy workload that I encounter…

9. ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ creative

I have made a little film to demonstrate the black and white to colour transition from ‘A Matter of Life and Death.’  It’s on flickr:

'A Matter of Life and Death' Creative

I’m especially pleased that I managed to film my Esther Williams swimsuit after hearing about her death last week – she is one of my favourites.

9. Joint 90th – ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ (1946)

I have been really looking forward to re-watching this film and what a lovely Sunday afternoon matinee it is.  A Matter of Life and Death is a romantic fantasy film created by the British writing-directing-producing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and set in England during the Second World War. It stars David Niven, Roger Livesey and  Kim Hunter.  It is the second Powell and Pressburger film on the list already, which is great.  It seems slightly odd that these beautifully made, but rather eccentrically British films are so appreciated.  I have heard that Martin Scorsese is a particular fan.

A lovely, comfy Sunday afternoon

A lovely, comfy Sunday afternoon

I have seen it before, when my lovely friend Nat bought me a Powell and Pressburger box set a few years ago, but I was interested to see it again after reading Jack Cardiff’s autobiography and looking with a new eye at all his inventiveness with technicolor. There was a great DVD extra on the disc about him too, which was very interesting. A Matter of Life and Death has always been my favourite Powell and Pressburger film, it has such a great concept and is envisioned perfectly. I always like a movie with a court scene, especially Mr Smith Goes to Washingon and An Anatomy of a Murder.

Like The Ladykillers, I always forget that it’s going to be in colour, but the technicolor black and white of ‘the other world’ gives it a strange, pearly quality that is perfect for a heaven type place. It seems so contrary to make ‘the other world’ black and white and earth colour, but it makes a strange sense, especially as the colour of earth is amazing, particularly the early sequences of Kim Hunter on the phone and Niven on the beach. It’s crazy how much make-up they all have to wear to compensate.  I love the meta qualities of the film, such as when the incompetent Conductor 71 comes down to earth and watches his lapel flower turn to colour (in a beautiful graphic match) and says ‘we are straved of Technicolor up there.’  The Technicolor cinematography is lovely, Jack Cardiff is suitably revered, but it is generally so crammed full of visual and technical details – the camera obscura, the graphic matches, the cross dissolves, filters and framing, the eyelid closing. Wonderful.

I really like the Communist aspect of ‘the other world’, the American captain has issues after clearly managing to get to the top, but it’s lovely that everyone has a report and all are treated equally. This must have been fairly political then. I also love the look of ‘the other world’, all the Art Deco features and the fact that it seems to be run by beautiful women. It looks like a beautiful, shiny Fred and Ginger musical set. The escalator is brilliant and was constructed to actually work – an impressive engineering feat.

David Niven has always been a favourite, ever since reading his autobiographies as a teenager and Roger Livesey is great and I loved him as Colonel Blimp. His voice  is very comforting and warm, like a hot chocolate on the sofa.  Pretty much a symbol for this whole film.

I also love luxuriating in such an amazing view of Britain. I know it’s romanticised, but I love the thought of them learning a Shakespeare play or the view of the village and the country house. People cycling around, playing chess and being so polite to each other. And the focus on a British voice and poetry. The attacks on British history in the court room scene are also interesting, its criticism and its support by Livesey. The French man is also an amazing stereotype – very funny, although I imagine a French viewer wouldn’t see it like that!

Creative:
Something technically interesting
Maybe the same thing in colour and black and white or turning from one to the other in the same shot like the change from the operation to heaven.
Focus on light
Montage of different features

Holiday reading.

I recently had a lovely week in La Palma.  Completely by chance I ended up taking four books that were all about British issues.  Two of them were about film and were fascinating.  I’ve started to get really interested in the British film industry and the book about the Korda brothers was fascinating.

Holiday reading

March is cinematographer autobiography month – obviously!

This month I have been reading Jack Cardiff’s Magic Hour and Billy Bitzer’s His Story and so have coined it ‘Cinematographer Autobiography March’.

March reading

A few years ago I went through a phase of reading books about producers (such as My Indecision Is Final about Goldcrest and a great biography of Samuel Goldwyn) and really enjoyed it, so I thought this pair would be fun.  I really enjoyed the Jack Cardiff book, which had a lot of celebrity gossip (especially about Sophia Loren and working on The African Queen).  The Billy Bitzer book was written in rather an odd way, but it was interesting to read after recently watching Intolerance. Not sure what I’m going to go on to next…

4. 93rd – ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’ creative

I have created a word collage of what I feel is Britishness:

Britishness wordle

Tagged

4. Joint 93rd – ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’

The life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is a classic of British cinema.  It stars a wonderful Roger Livesey as Colonel Candy, Deborah Kerr as a variety of great women and Anton Walbrook as a complex and sympathetic German character.  Something that caused controversy at the time, but reveals a liberal and cosmopolitan view that is lovely to see.  My ace friend Nat had given me a box set of eleven Powell & Pressburger films about three years ago so I have seen it before.  I have to admit that it isn’t one of my favourites (I much prefer A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes), but it is always nice to see wartime British films.  I used to collect Utility/CC41 clothing and furniture and have always had an interest in that period of history.  I also enjoyed this film a lot more on the second viewing.

Colonel Blimp

I loved the tapestry opening sequence.  It was a weekend of good opening sequences, I especially enjoyed the neon lights in My Man Godfrey.  A good opening sequence is crucial in a film and sets the tone.  Obviously the Saul Bass era was especially rich, I will always remember dad showing me the opening of Walk on the Wild Side, but there are some great ones being made now.  The Catch Me If You Can  titles were lovely and lots of telly programmes make an effort with them – Mad Men, Dexter – that always makes me happy.
For some reason I never remember it being in colour and yet, of course, the beautiful Technicolor cinematography is crucial to its success.  It photographs the lush mise-en-scene perfectly.  I guess I think that Britain in the middle of the century was black and white.  I still have to check that The Ladykillers is in colour, it seems wrong.
The narrative is beautifully structured in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.  From the very complex initial present day Turkish bath sequence and transition in him coming out of the bath, weaving the cloth in a factory to show they are getting married to the use of taxidermy to show movement of time.  Surely the only time this has ever been done in a film?
Although this film has a focus on the male protagonist and war, there is a lot of proto-feminist ideas from Kerr’s character, such as what roles where left open to women and why she is a Governess.  I love that she is accused of being a Suffragette as an insult.
This film has some lovely messages.  It is obviously about friendships crossing borders, but it is also about lives past and to not let the young judge the old.
Creatives:
I think I want to focus on what is Britishness.  I could do this through words (I like the idea of British and American English being confused in the film), or images or moving images.