Wednesday, March 30, 2011

About Colour me Kubrick

This nice comedy was made by Brian Cook, who  knew Kubrick very well as they worked together (he was second unit director) in numerous films (Eyes wide shut, Barry Lindon, etc). This film was a pleasant surprise as it marked Robert’s come back to the films.
The film tells the story of Alan Conway, an alcoholic, gay, con man who nabbed a lot of people pretending to be Stanley Kubrick even though he didn’t look at all like him. For his first film, Cook tried comedy and he succeeded it as the film is extremely funny, mainly for the musical homage to some Kubrick’s films. Cook reunited a five-star cast led by John Malkovich as Alan Conway and a multitude of guest appearances among them Marisa Berenson (Barry Lindon), Honor Blackman (The Avengers), Ken Russell (in the funniest scene of the film) and… Robert Powell!
This film was produced by Europacorp, Luc Besson’s production company, and that’s the reason I had the chance to see it in France. It was released in 2005, and even if the critics were OK, they weren’t enthusiast about the film.
The film was released as a “gay film” and the critics didn’t give details about the plot. And I must confess that even me I awaited a bit too long to go and see it at the cinema! When I decided to go and see it, it was only available in one cinema. I was very excited but worried at the same time, I was worried about Robert’s appearance in the film: How long? How good? What if I didn’t like it? At the end I was very pleased for the following reasons:
-        It’s an enjoyable film! At a moment I even forgot I was there to see Robert!
-        Robert appears in four scenes (more than I’ve expected!). He plays a journalist who investigates about the case. The first scene in which he talks to Conway on the phone is lovely, as Conway says “I like your voice”. Funny that Malkovich says that to Robert! (both have marvelous voices).

"I like your voice!"
I would like to know why Robert made that film after so long. And why he didn’t do more! When I met him, back in 2002, he seemed to be annoyed when he learnt that I knew he was going to do that film according to the IMDB. He said he hadn’t signed it yet, that he wasn’t sure, and that it was a “favor”.  I didn’t ask more, but the question kept in my mind… and still is.

The only thing I didn't like of the film was that waistcoat

Back to the subject: the film is mild amusement, I highly recommend it! And I leave you with two scenes with Robert. If you want to see the funny scene with Ken Russell, watch the trailer, he’s one of the crazy guys at the asylum.

 Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jeffrey Bernard is unwell Press Review

Robert’s new stage performance in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell started on 22th March and the critics are very good!
“Some might be tempted to say – and I certainly would certainly be one of them – that Robert Powell gives a far more engaging portrayal of the alcoholic journalist than Peter O'Toole did in the original production which came to Bath prior to its opening in London's West End back in 1989.”
  • The Evening Post gives us  an interview with Robert  in which he talks about his choice of leaving Holby City :
 “you can't stay cosy for too long. I've always believed and said that and I had to follow my own example really.
"I needed to put myself under the cosh again and do something more stretching. So here I am.”
  • And finally The Guardian presents and article about playing drunks on stage and there’s a bit about Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell :
There are instances in which legendary drunks have inspired equally legendary performances. Keith Waterhouse's portrayal of his colleague, the Spectator columnist Jeffrey Bernard, provided a fermented peach of a role for Peter O'Toole and, later, Tom Conti. Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell has now been revived for a national tour featuring Robert Powell, whose familiarity with the play's bar-room milieu has armed him with useful insight into the potentially messy "egg trick", a favoured party piece involving a pint glass, a matchbox and a raw egg.
"I was fortunate enough to know Keith Waterhouse and to see him demonstrate the egg trick on several occasions," Powell says. "I've got it right every time in rehearsal so far." Yet hilarious though the play is, there are aspects of Bernard's character that are no laughing matter: "There's a big distinction between playing someone who is drunk and someone who was never sober," Powell says. "If there's one thing that tends to unite alcoholics it is a deep self-loathing that causes them to gravitate towards other alcoholics for company."
I'm so happy to know the critics are excellent! (that's the least we can expect about Robert!). I wish I could see the play!! (and him! of course! and the famous egg trick...)
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Asphyx remake

Oh yes! Another remake! Robert said once that he was ”the king of remakes” (The Thirty Nine Steps, The Four Feathers, Il segno del commando, The Mystery of Edwin Drood… and we can also consider Frankenstein and Jesus of Nazareth as adaptations).
Well, there are also remakes of Robert’s best films! Remember the terrible Italian Job made in Hollywood and now there is going to be a remake of the classic The Asphyx.

I discovered this informations on this blog. The film is scheduled by 21st June 2011 and there is  not much information about the story or the cast. Something sure is that Alison Doody (Indiana Jones and the last crusade) will star the film in the role of Christina. From what is leaked  the story is centered in the girl, who is going to play a doctor.
I don’t know why producers call a Remake a film that changes all the story but only keeps the title and the character names (like in the remake of The Italian job). OK, I understand what a remake means, but if everything is going to change, why don’t get a different title?
Anyway, I hope this is going to create interest in the original Asphyx. Robert looked so lovely and young and the story was excellent. I liked Robert “horror” films : OK it’s not really horror, but he made many “strange” films such as Asylum, The Asphyx, Harlequin, Survivor and later on we can count Il segno del commando. I wish he made more of that kind of films.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Robert's Italian Job part 4 : Beyond good and Evil

Finally, the “Italian Job saga” concludes with the icing on the cake, one of Robert’s best films (and by that I’m not only referring to his performance but the film in a whole) : Beyond good and evil (Al di là del bene e del male). This film was made in 1977 by Liliana Cavani and stars Robert Powell as Paul Rée, Erland Josephson as Friedrich Nietzsche and Dominique Sanda as Lou Salomé. The film is about their strong relationship, from their ménage à trois to their perdition: insanity, dead and marriage…
This film is very intensive, a real cinematographic lesson, the dialogues, the music is magnificent and the acting is excellent. That’s why I award this film as one of the best films starring Robert Powell : This one and Mahler are the most marvelous from a pure cinematographic point of view.
Of course, this film is also provoking and contains several sexual scenes, not of all of them justified to my puritan point of view. Especially the rather shocking scene with Robert, where he gets raped by a bunch of men (and a bottle… no comments!).
In this film Robert stars Paul Rée, a Nietzsche disciple who is homosexual, but falls in love of Lou Salomé, a feminist, a liberated woman ahead for her time. The three of them decide to live together and they have a lot of fun for a moment, but each one of them gives way to their weaknesses : Fritz succumbs to the insanity provoked by syphilis; Lou, the free woman who said she would never marry a man, feels obliged to marry one of her lovers; and Paul, well, let’s say he “happily” dies fulfilling one of his dreams…

Robert comments about the film
This is the movie Robert made right after Jesus of Nazareth, and it’s quite an odd choice after playing Jesus and having stated that he wasn’t going to play the “sensible young man” anymore.  About his choice, I found interesting information in an interview he gave to Gordon Gow for the magazine Films and Filming in March 1978, “Taking risks” (which is, by the way, the most intelligent article I’ve read) :
“‘I’m rather quirky about what I turn down and what I accept. I like to be constantly moving, and ducking and diving. The more difficult and strange something is, the better.
“When one looks at the last ten of fifteen years in films, and in fact certainly before that, the one thing that established people was the guarantee that, with their names outside on the marquee, and audience knew exactly what they were going to go walking into, without reading a review. If you saw Clint Eastwood’s name outside a cinema, you knew what you were getting. You still do. And Charles Bronson. You know what you are going to get. And if you like it, then it’s a wonderful cosy feeling for an audience.
“I operate almost entirely by instinct, though. Scripts are the first things I react to – not directors but writers. If somebody comes up with something a little peculiar, then it’s liable to be more interesting. It’s got to be. It’s one thing to do a five million dollar film where you’re playing a fairly obvious policeman or something. On the other hand, Liliana Cavani asked me to go to Rome to do a strange story about the German philosopher Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil. And suddenly I knew which I wanted to do: I wanted to go to Rome, and get involved in that rather peculiar story. It’s very loosely based on a piece of history about three peple who came together in the 1880s – Nietzsche, a courtesan who was a Russian emigrée, and one of Nietzsche’s disciples, a young German writer called Paul Rée. They established a ménage à trois, and the two men destroyed each other and attempted to destroy the courtesan. It’s a mammoth story, emotionally very violent.’

“We’ve been criticised on Cavani’s Nietzsche film because some people have said that it is not anything to do with the life of Nietzsche. Well, of course it isn’t. If you wish to know what the life of Nietzsche was, then we’ll make a documentary about it or you can go to the library and get a good, dull, biography. But we’re talking about directors like Cavani and like Russell who are using the cinema to portray one aspect, their own version of a possibility. It is themselves that they are expressing, just as much as it is the subject of their film. All of Russell’s films, I feel, are autobiographical. They’re all about him. He just does it through major people, because that gives him more scope. Television programmes like Omnibus or Horizon can tell us when a poet or a musician was born, where he lived and where he died and what he wrote. I don’t want to go to the movies to discover that. I want to go to be entertained. And Russell does that without fail. He is never less than highly entertaining. And intellectually stimulating as well.’
“I have a feeling that for Cavani the central character in the story is neither Paul Rée nor Nietzsche, but the woman. That is Cavani exploring certain of her own attitudes towards men, which are very much to the fore in her own make-up. She’s not an easy lady. She’s a sort of diminutive, slightly scruffy woman, whom I adore. I got on with her very well; we became great buddies. But on the set you would find a six-foot-six electrician, weighing about two hundred and twenty pounds, or less than that, and she could put the fear of God into him. I’ve never known such verbal savagery as she was capable of."
Where to find it?
I know that this film is a bit difficult to find and there are two versions: Italian and English. I suppose it was originally filmed in English, because I've found a version in English and it has the original voices of all the actors (you hear the accents). However, it was released in the Italian version. I’ve found a 1984 review from Janet Maslin from The New York Times, in which it is said that the film is in Italian. Her review is not tender at all, here is the conclusion:
“Though ''Beyond Good and Evil'' is as graphic as it can be, it manages to remain peculiarly unerotic, perhaps because Miss Cavani's explicitness seems so literal. When she depicts the details of, say, a homosexual gang rape or a visit to a bordello, her frankness says more about her inability to convey such things metaphorically or imaginatively than it does about courage.”
I got my copy from ebay: a vhs in an extremely poor quality but with English audio. However, the only dvd available I’ve found was on a Japanese site (sorry I didn’t keep the address), in Italian wih Japanese subtitles, an excellent video quality and funny digitally blurred parts in the nude scenes.

For some audiences (philosophy aficionados, cinema students), this is a cult movie, at least in France. For several years this film was shown in a little cinema in the Latin Quarter in Paris : “L’Accatone”, which is a local cinema wich always schedules classic films. Sadly it is not running these days, but it was when I arrived to Paris and remained many years. It took me several years to have the courage to go and see it! First because the showing time was a bit late for me to go alone: 10 PM! Also, I didn’t want to oblige my husband to come with me, mainly because I didn’t want him to watch the “shocking” scenes with Robert.
Finally we went together and he actually enjoyed the film. We were about 6 people on the cinema, a part from us, the other guys were long-bearded intellectuals, regulars of that cinema, and they seemed to know each dialogue, especially Nietzsche’s dialogues which were taken from his writings as they had strange reactions at some parts of the film that to us were uninteresting (some dialogues, Nietzsche's phrases). It was a funny experience, I wonder if other Robert Powell fans came to "L'Accatone" see that film through all those years!
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tour dates : Jeffrey Bernard is unwell

For the lucky ones living in UK, here are the tour dates of the new stage play with Robert Powell. The dates are not complete, that’s all I could find on the net these days.
Please, if you have the chance to see him share your impressions here!
  • Theatre Royal Bath, Bath Tuesday 22nd – Saturday 26th March
  • Clwyd  Theatr Cymru, Mold, Monday 28 March – Saturday 2 April
  • Cambridge Arts Theatre, Monday 4 to Saturday 9 April
  • New Victoria Theatre, Woking : Monday 11 April 2011 to Saturday 16 April 2011
  • Theatre Royal Brighton, Brighton, Monday 18 April 2011 to Saturday 23 April 2011
  • Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes, Monday 25 April 2011 to Saturday 30 April 2011
  • Malvern Theatres, Malvern, Mon 9 May to Sat 14 May 2011
  • Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Monday 30 May 2011 to Saturday 04 June 2011
  • Richmond Theatre, Richmond, Monday 06 June 2011 to Saturday 11 June 2011