Sunday Reads: “Made in England” and Other Stamps of ApprovalPosted: May 17, 2015
Did anyone catch the film Tales of Hoffmann last night? It was on TCM, and unfortunately it is not scheduled for broadcast again anytime soon. I missed it. And that is such a disappointment.
More on this film at the end of the post. The images you see are from that opera/ballet put on film in 1951 and 4K digitally restored by Martin Scorsese in a 2015 release that is being screened in limited engagements worldwide. (A few being in Austin, Nashville, San Francisco, and a couple of more cities in the US, as I said more on this later…)
First, let’s get some newsy links out of the way:
The numbers out of Nepal are shocking:
The number of people killed in Nepal by two major earthquakes has surpassed 8,500, making the disaster the deadliest to hit the Himalayan country on record, as rescuers on Sunday searched for dozens of people still missing in remote villages.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, killing thousands and demolishing more than half a million homes, most of them in rural areas cut off from emergency medical care.
A second major quake struck on Tuesday 76 kilometers (47 miles) east of the capital Kathmandu, just as Nepalis were beginning to recover from the previous earthquake.
The death toll from the two quakes now stands at 8,583, the home ministry said on Sunday.
The previous deadliest earthquake to strike the country – in 1934 – killed at least 8,519 in Nepal, as well as thousands more in neighboring India.
Just last night another strong aftershock, if you want to call it that, struck Nepal. Makes you wonder if this is just the few before at big one, by that I mean even larger than the upper 7’s we have already seen.
Turning to US news: Duke professor: Blacks riot because they’re lazier than Asians and have ‘strange’ un-American names Will this shit ever stop:
A North Carolina professor said over the weekend that he was suspended after he was caught writing in the New York Times comment section that there was a link between the Baltimore riots and “strange” names that black people had instead of having traditional white names.
According to WTVD, Duke University Professor Jerry Hough responded to a New York Timeseditorial titled “How Racism Doomed Baltimore” by suggesting that the author’s attitude was what was “wrong” with the black community.
“[T]he blacks get symbolic recognition in an utterly incompetent mayor who handled this so badly from beginning to end that her resignation would be demanded if she were white,” he wrote. “The blacks get awful editorials like this that tell them to feel sorry for themselves.”
Hough noted that “the Asians” faced discrimination throughout U.S. history: “They didn’t feel sorry for themselves, but worked doubly hard.”
“I am a professor at Duke University,” he admitted. “Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration. Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration.”
Hough added that blacks made the problem worse by refusing to date white people.
“It was appropriate that a Chinese design won the competition for the Martin Luther King state,” he concluded. “King helped them overcome. The blacks followed Malcolm X.”
Oh brother….read the rest of what was said and the reaction at the link.
Alan Caruba, contributing writer for the fringe right-wing Tea Party News Network, has some pretty impressive credentials. Founder of “The Center for Anxiety,” a conservative propaganda mill, Alan has spent his entire life on the quest for knowledge.
Not the kind of knowledge a contemporary student or scholar craves, mind you; Alan’s quest is for knowledge of how to be as ignorant as humanly possible.
At that he is a complete success. Caruba is a notorious science denier; for years he’s claimed that universities keep the myth alive for the benefit of…who knows who. He’s also a proponent of all things biblical, and he hates the LGBT community with a passion because he’s so much better than them.
The list goes on, straight down the lines of the fringe right. Alan Caruba is a holier than thou myth junkie whose views are appreciated by knuckle-dragging nitwits across America.
It’s no wonder he writes for the number one publication of the Tea Party.
That should put you in the mood for…
Op/ed via NYT: Housing Apartheid, American Style – NYTimes.com
A long read via HuffPo: 61 Years After Brown v. Board Of Education, Many Schools Remain Separate And Unequal
So as you take time to read those, let’s segue to a segment from John Oliver, on the current situation in US Education:
American students face a ridiculous amount of testing. John Oliver explains how standardized tests impact school funding, the achievement gap, how often kids are expected to throw up.
Well, what do you expect, after all that standardized testing…you go to college, right?
Then what happens?
Having a job in hand prior to commencement is a coveted security blanket, but not an easy one to land.
Still, some groups of college seniors and grad students have a better statistical chance of getting one before they enter the real world, according to a new survey.
Being a techie male puts you in the best position, says the annual Career Insight Survey from the career network AfterCollege.
Just 14 percent of college seniors have a job locked up before graduation this year, according to the findings, and only 13 percent of graduate students do.
But, among technology students, 28 percent have jobs in place. That’s far better than business students at 18 percent and life sciences students at 15 percent.
Meanwhile, 18 percent of men have a job being held for them compared to just 11 percent of women students.
“What’s particularly shocking this year is the clear discrepancy in job hunt success based on gender and area of study,” said Roberto Angulo, AfterCollege CEO.
This is particularly shocking?
More links…quick like:
I hope this Blue Bell situation gets settled soon, but it looks like it is not: Blue Bell Creameries lays off 1,450 employees due to listeria outbreak
Check it out, gays get rights before women do in Ireland. Sorry, I am so happy for this but it still stings a bit…Ireland appears set to say ‘yes’ in gay marriage vote – Al Jazeera English
However here in the States, Cruz needs to shut the fuck up: Addicting Info – Ted Cruz: Gay Marriage Is The ‘Greatest Threat To Religion In American History’
I can tell him where he can stick his threat to Religion too…
There is an interesting story here: Daughters of Diaspora | Al Jazeera America
Shaped by the decisions their mothers made, two cousins grapple with assimilation in both the U.S. and France
It seems this first is a long time coming: Juana Garcia, first female NY Water Taxi captain, takes helm – NY Daily News
As a call back to Emma Watson’s He for She Campaign: Salma Hayek Speaks Out on Hollywood’s Failures to Women
And while we are on the subject of Hollywood and women: Why Peggy Olson is the biggest badass on Mad Men
What is Mad Men really about? The series opens (“Smoke Gets in your Eyes”) with handsome, duplicitous, womanizing, alcoholic Donald Draper (or Dick Whitman) alone in a bar, observing patrons through smoke, seated exactly like the opaque window-jumper from the series credits.
However, the unique event which propels the first episode, and the brilliant series that follows, is Peggy Olson’s first day of employment at Sterling Cooper. And what a remarkable day it is. What begins with an awkward elevator ride with Ken Cosgrove (version 1.0), leads Peggy to personal and professional life lessons from Joan Holloway (later Harris), who sends her to a condescending, slut-shaming (and probably ex-lover) gynecologist where she scores her first birth control prescription. From there, we witness a terse Don Draper rebuff Peggy in a cringeworthy exchange, and watch her momentous day end as she guides drunk vulture Pete Campbell into her apartment for a one-night stand.
If you ever want to read a good analyses of Mad Men and the relationship of costumes to characters, go to TLo:
You will not be sorry….take a look at how they described the last time we saw Peggy, which touches on that first episode of Mad Men:
Cue the rockstar entrance:
Everyone out of my way. It’s my first day on my new job.
No perfectly put-together and professional suits here. She went for a sassy little dress (complete with a row of Pussy Power buttons) instead because Roger Sterling gave her permission to stop worrying about what others think of her. And of course, it’s got her signature power color, that mustard yellow, which has been a consistent motif for her going all the way back to Day One of her career:
Kick ass, Peggy. Kick ass.
And as Peggy navigates the tight hallways of McCann Erickson and embraces her future …
Don’s in as wide open a space as possible, with no idea of what is future’s going to be. We noted before that each final shot of this season has Don stationary, while the camera moves away from him, but this time he’s moving away from the camera himself. It feels less like things are being stripped away from him and more like he’s deliberately running away.
Seriously, their work on these Mad Style reviews is excellent. I think I will miss it just about as much as the show itself…which airs the final episode tonight.
Okay, more quick links, on Cuba:
Ben Latham-Jones has fully acquired Ealing Studios Entertainment, the production entity of the iconic London-based studio, it was announced today. Latham-Jones, a former creative director for Fox, will take over the role of head of studio from Barnaby Thompson, who will now segue into focusing on directing. Thompson will retain his shares in Ealing Studios Operations, which runs the stages and facilities side of the business, alongside partners Harry Handelsman and Uri Fruchtmann.
Latham-Jones hopes to turn Ealing into a hub of British filmmaking excellence, recalling its heyday under legendary exec Michael Balcon, who was responsible for classics including The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets.
Which brings me full circle back to the film The Tales of Hoffmann…
“Made in England” is how Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger finally stamped their unworldly, otherworldly Tales of Hoffmann from 1951, an adaptation of the Jacques Offenbach opera, which is now on rerelease. It actually negated English and British cinema’s reputation for stolid realism. This is a hothouse flower of pure orchidaceous strangeness, enclosed in the studio’s artificial universe, fusing cinema, opera and ballet. It is sensual, macabre, dreamlike and enigmatic: like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In his autobiography, Powell recalls talking to a United Artists executive after the New York premiere, who said to him, wonderingly: “Micky, I wish it were possible to make films like that … ” A revealing choice of words. It was as if what this executive thought he had seen was some kind of miraculous film that he still did not believe was “possible” in any sense. Robert Rounseville is the famous poet Hoffmann, in love with a dancer, played by Moira Shearer. Hoffmann regales tavern drinkers with tales of his three former loves: Olympia, Giulietta and Antonia – an automaton, a courtesan and an invalid, three different manifestations of love’s dangerous, seductive power. In each case Robert Helpmann plays the dark nemesis figure, with his extraordinary, skull-like face. You might compare this to the 1948 Powell and Pressburger film The Red Shoes, though in many ways it is even more hallucinatory.
Admirers and detractors of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s film “The Tales of Hoffmann,” from Offenbach’s opera, are equally vociferous. The newly restored edition, playing at Film Forum Friday through next Thursday, reminds us why. This 1951 film belongs to a bewildering number of categories. It’s lip-sync opera, multilayered meta-theater (indeed, a dizzyingly baroque exercise in overt artifice), kitsch extravaganza of luridly colored design (by Hein Heckroth) and keenly musical ballet.
And what’s more, it’s an over-the-top example of 1950s neo-Romanticism tipping over into surrealism; it’s not merely Anglophone but terminally English (the ostentatious quaintness of several accents is its most dated feature); it’s steeped in ideas from Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (the femme fatale entrancing the hero, the dolls whose poignancy and vivacity raise questions about reality); and it’s an audacious essay in film fantasy, sui generis in its inventions and its splicing of different arts.
I think the next sentence best describes this film:
I love it except when I don’t. It’s crazy, twee, camp, exhilarating, trite, bold.
“Tales of Hoffmann” followed the success of Powell and Pressburger’s “The Red Shoes,” and again its dance heroine is Moira Shearer. Though “Hoffmann” doesn’t have the obsessive fervor of “The Red Shoes,” it’s a much better demonstration of Shearer’s dancing. (She was often the first to say so.) She’s again teamed with the dance-mime stars Léonide Massine and Robert Helpmann; we also see again the ballerina Ludmilla Tcherina.
Watching it again after many years, I’m startled to see just how pervaded by dance and choreography it is. Sometimes in small, scarcely dance moments, it captures the alchemy of movement meeting music better than anything in “Red Shoes.” No wonder: The choreographer is Frederick Ashton, one of the most tellingly musical choreographers of all time, and the conductor is Thomas Beecham, experienced in working with dance since the Diaghilev Ballets Russes, and with long experience with this opera. (His rhythmic élan is a source of life from the very opening bars.) Ashton also gives the film’s best performances, though only in supporting roles.
Best to read the rest of the review at the link.
Other reviews of the film here, if you have access:
Video clips here: Videos for The Tales of Hoffmann
There are three at that link.
But what I want to really share, is the significance of the film….
This week, Camerimage film festival presents a retrospective of the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Last month at the Lumière Festival, Thelma Schoonmaker, the three-time Oscar winning editor and Powell’s widow, spoke about “The Tales of Hoffmann,” Powell and Pressburger’s 1951 adaptation of Jacques Offenbach’s opera, which is one of the films screening at Camerimage.
Martin Scorsese has influenced generations of new filmmakers. But who and what films influenced Scorsese? One front-runner: “The Tales of Hoffmann,” Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1951 adaptation of Jacques Offenbach’s opera, which liberated the duo from the constraints of early 1950s’ sound cinema.
In a video presentation made for and screened at the Lyon Lumière Festival in October, Scorsese admitted that he became “rather obsessed” by the movie.
That could be an understatement. Attending Lyon, Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s three-time Oscar winning editor and Powell’s widow, took a captivated audience through the film, shot in only 17 days, its singularity and huge impact on not only Scorsese but also George Romero. Cecil B. DeMille was another large admirer. Bertrand Tavernier pointed to “Blade Runner” as just one movie that channeled “Tales.”
It is fascinating. Read more…at the link.
Another look here:
Martin Scorsese said it was a big influence on his films “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” George Romero, director of the seminal zombie thriller “Night of the Living Dead,” said it was the reason he became a filmmaker.
“Ten Commandments” director Cecil B. DeMille wrote the British filmmakers in 1952, telling Powell and Pressburger: “For the first time in my life I was treated to Grand Opera where the beauty, power and scope of the music was equally matched by the visual presentation.”
” ‘Tales of Hoffmann’ was a daring and bold thing to try,” said Margaret Bodde, executive director of the Film Foundation, which Scorsese began 25 years ago to preserve and restore motion pictures. “The film is like an experimental film. If you read the description of the production, you wouldn’t have imagined it would have come out as well. It holds your interest in a way that you wouldn’t imagine a film like this would. ”
Now, 64 years after its initial release, “Tales of Hoffmann” has been digitally restored by the Film Foundation and the BFI National Archive in association with Studiocanal. Scorsese, Schoonmaker and Ned Price, vice president of mastering for Warner Bros. technical operations, supervised the restoration work, which was completed by Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging.
This restoration, which opens Friday for a weeklong run at Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles, brings out all the detail in Hein Heckroth’s lush production and costume design and Christopher Challis’ vivid Technicolor cinematography. The new version also includes six minutes of footage that was cut before its original release, as well as an epilogue.
The original 35-millimeter Technicolor three-strip nitrate camera negative and 35-millimeter original soundtrack negative from the British Film Institute vaults were used for the restoration. The material for the added footage was also discovered at BFI.
Those involved with the Film Foundation Technicolor restorations of Powell-Pressburger’s “The Red Shoes” and “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” from 1943 had to contend with mold on the original negatives. But that wasn’t the case with “Tales of Hoffmann.”
“It was in quite good condition,” Price said. “We dealt with the normal shrinkage, which is inevitable with film. Over time, they lose moisture. They shrink and they warp differently. But we aligned the three strips, and they matched perfectly.”
Schoonmaker, who also supervised the restoration of “Red Shoes” and “Blimp,” said the team was “very lucky that we could concentrate on the color and the detail instead of having to spend a lot of money on cracks and mold and dirt.”
“Scorsese and I didn’t know what that was,” she said. “Finally, when we started getting all the elements together, the woman at the British Film Institute scoured the vaults and found the missing six minutes.”
Read more about the restored footage…
You can still catch this film on the big screen.
Look on that page for scheduled screenings of this film and other Powell and Pressburger films.
Events & Excursions– Portland, San Diego, Berkley…Albuquerque…Austin, go and check it out.
It is exciting because The Tales of Hoffmann is being shown in Nashville May 29th through June 4th…hopefully I can get up there to see it with my mom and Bebe…anyway, just be sure to see if you are lucky enough to be near a screening.
Well, this is a long thread for sure. Thanks to Boston Boomer who wrote all the threads this week, you sure are a hell of a trooper, super woman.
This is an open thread…yeah.