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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride


Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman from Paramount Pictures.

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman from Paramount Pictures.

RocketmanRocketman, the biopic-jukebox musical strung upon the outpouring of songs written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, is saved from its chock-a-block narrative impatience by the pure puppy-ness of Taron Egerton’s performance as Reg Dwight grown big and awful, rocketing toward his present twenty-eight years of sobriety. Camp is indicated more than embodied: the phantasm of Elton John’s feelings, both sad and flying high, plays as a deracinated version of a Baz Luhrmann canvas like Moulin Rouge than the Ken Russell bacchanal that would have incinerated the screen. (The script is by Lee Hall, who collaborated with John on the stage musical adaptation of his highly political Billy Elliot screenplay.) [More here.]

The-Souvenir-07.-By-Sandro-Kopp.-Courtesy-of-A24The Souvenir. Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir is as mysterious as it is specific, tracing the drift of Julie, an intensely ambitious film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) who is distracted by a first true love affair, with Anthony (Tom Burke), a man who appears to take her seriously indeed. Set in the 1980s artistic era in which the writer-director grew up, Hogg’s fourth feature describes how a film narrative can flow around the range of thoughts and emotions that a shy young woman holds as she hopes to make art. Places and faces are equally expressive realms. Can imagination be mere delusion? What are her dreams? Hogg dreamt them, dreams them, again, as distanced onscreen memoir, and the dream is furthered by Byrne’s mesmerizing, fleeting performance. “Making the film, I’m allowing parts of my own biography to be re-imagined and expanded upon and changed,” Hogg has said. “I want it to become something else.” [More here.]

The-BRINK-2The Brink. Alison Klayman’s The Brink, an avatar of cinema-vérité observation, arrives in a hush and escalates with precision. Klayman records political consultant and purported intellectual powerhouse Stephen K. “Steve” Bannon after his dismissal from the arms of Trump power, and the rich result, captured by a filmmaker-cinematographer-sound recordist on their own, all on their own, is edited to a fierce ninety-minute form from day-after-day of close observation of a year in a life of wheeling and huffing and dealing and puffing. [More here.] iTunes, June 4.


Last Year At Marienbad. [4k restoration; Criterion Blu upgrade.] Furiously beautiful and fatefully unforgettable, Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (L’année dernière à Marienbad), released in 1961 and written by Alain Robbe-Grillet in an absurdly detailed screenplay, is of its time. Its greatness lies in being a riotous puzzle box with silken and sheer and shiny surfaces that should dazzle, somewhat comforting in their concreteness as figures and objects, but discomfiture of memory and time and dream in its very form. A fantastic world of impossible wealth and improbable ennui and sculptured hair and Coco Chanel couture tacking through castle and courtyard in the shapeliest but least-definable of waking dreams: it is a thundercrack. (Robbe-Grillet said he was describing “a purely mental space and time—those of dreams, perhaps, or of memory, those of any affective life—without worrying too much about the traditional relations of cause and effect, or about an absolute time sequence in the narrative.”) [More here.]



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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon