More Films About Art

I recently reblogged my old 2013 post about the depiction of some famous artists in films made about their lives. Many readers suggested other films about different artists, some of which had not been released at the time, and others which I had seen but had left out of the original post. I suggested I might publish a second post later this year, but as it is a damp and dismal afternoon in Beetley, I have done it today.

I have only featured films I have actually seen. I know there are many more that I have not got around to viewing.

The Agony And The Ecstasy. (1965)

I was only 14 years old when I saw this at the cinema. It was promoted as an epic tale of the life of Michaelangelo, starring Charlton Heston as the painter and sculptor, and Rex Harrison as The Pope. The film was produced and directed by Carol Reed, one of Britain’s best. It turned out to be mainly about Michaelangelo’s struggle to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Not wanting the job, then unhappy with the finished result.

All this is set around the intense world of politics and war that beset the region in the 16th century.

The result is rather stodgy, to be honest. It felt overlong at 138 minutes, and I was shuffling in my seat long before the halfway point. The worthy supporting cast members give it their best shot, sets and scenery are well-handled, (they recreated the Sistine Chapel on a film set) but Heston overplays his role, and you cannot fail to notice that.

Here’s the official trailer.

Lust For Life. (1956)

Kirk Douglas does very well as the troubled Vincent Van Gogh in this film, and we also get another artist, Paul Gaugin, played by Anthony Quinn. An indication of how good it is was a Golden Globe for Douglas as Best Actor, and an Oscar for Quinn as best supporting actor.

We get Vincent’s early life, his departure to Paris with his brother Theo, and his meeting with Gaugin. Kirk Douglas throws everything into the role, and I found him completely convincing. (Yes, the ear cutting scene is included) His descent into madness and hallucinataions is well-handled, and the recreations of the original paintings good enough to make it feel as if Kirk is painting them.

Good sets, some location filming, and nice period feel, great supporting cast, and exceptionally good use of colour make this film stand out. It is still worth seeing now, for anyone interested in the painter and his work, or to watch Kirk Douglas giving one of his best ever performances.

Here’s an old trailer.

Moulin Rouge. (1952)

Thankfully not the awful Baz Luhrmann musical from 2001, this is a biopic of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, starring Jose Ferrer and directed by John Huston. Courtesy of a flashback, we learn that the young Henri suffered injuries in a fall as a child. This caused his legs to be stunted, giving him a lot of pain, and also making him exceptionally odd in appearance.

Unhappy, unlucky in love, and convinced that life will hold no joy for him, he loses himself in his painting, moving to Paris to begin a career. There he spends his time with dancers, entertainers, and prostitutes. He favours the nightclub ‘Moulin Rouge’, where he paints advertising posters of the stars and leading ladies, all the time drinking heavily. There he falls in love with a prostitute, Marie, but their relationship is turbulent, and she takes advantage of him.

As Henri continues to try to find love, he is slowly drinking himself to death, resulting in another accident when he falls down some stairs.

This is a remarkable film; with wonderful recreations of the Moulin Rouge, convincing characters, and a real feel of the turn of the century setting. It is also a tour de force from Ferrer, as he had to work with various props including knee pads and concealed pits to give the impression of his incredibly stunted legs. He also plays his own father, early in the film. I have seen it many times, and even now it is hard to believe it was released the same year I was born.

Here is the official trailer.

Carrington. (1995)

I saw this on TV a few years ago, and really liked it. English painter Dora Carrington is played by Emma Thompson, with the marvellous Jonathan Pryce as Lytton Strachey, her destructive love interest. This film has sexual themes, including homosexuality, and ‘sexual confusion’. Filmed as chapters, it covers a time period from 1915-1932. The film also features a particularly good score, with the music for the soundtrack composed by the talented Michael Nyman.

The supporting cast deserves mention, as it includes some of the best British character actors of the time. Samuel West, Penelope Wilton, Rufus Sewell, Jeremy Northam, and Janet McTeer. (As well as many more) Sets and costumes are never less than flawless, and the direction from Christopher Hampton is perfect. This is as much a film about Stracey though, and was actually adapted from a book about him, choosing to feature his unusual realtionship with Dora as its main theme.

Serving as an acting masterclass from many of the best in the business, this film rewards the serious viewer who is not deterred by some of the content and themes. Pryce and Thompson are simply outstanding.

Here’s the trailer.

Mr.Turner. (2014)

British artist J.M.W.Turner is played by Timothy Spall, who won the Palme’Dor at Cannes for Best Actor in the role. He is joined by a fine supporting cast, including Lesley Manville and Marion Bailey, with direction from the wonderful Mike Leigh. The story looks at the last twenty-five years of Turner’s life, (he died in 1851) including his relationships with the women in his life, and his unusual approach to his painting.

In all honesty, it doesn’t get much better than this, especially if you are a fan of both history, and Turner’s art. Spall is amazing, completely inhabiting the role of the painter. Cinematography, sets, location filming, design, costumes, casting, nothing lets down the viewer. Direction and screenplay from Mike Leigh is as good as ever, and the whole film is a cinema experience and a feast for the eyes. Not much more to say really. Just watch it when you can.

Some reviewers called this film ‘A masterpiece’. No argument from me.

Here is the official trailer.

That’s it from me. I don’t think I have seen any other films about the lives of artists and painters. If I remember one, I will do another post. 🙂

Some Comedy films

Another old film post from 2013 that no current followers appear to have seen. (Except Eddy) Unusually for me, this one is about comedy films.

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Some time ago, my friend Jim Medway (look him up, very talented cartoonist) asked if I was going to post some suggestions for comedy films that I would recommend. I had feared that someone would make that request, as Comedy is my least favourite genre, when it comes to films. It is not that I don’t find things funny, far from it; just not the sort of things that are commonly called ‘comedy’, by film-makers.

I could barely raise a chuckle at the big box-office successes starring the likes of Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, or Steve Martin. It is also highly unlikely that I will ever want to watch a teenage ‘rom-com’, or one of the cruder attempts at being funny, that seem so popular in the multiplexes these days. I will confess that some parts of ‘There’s something about Mary’ made me laugh, but not enough to get it…

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Some Musical films

Another film post reblog from 2013. This time it features some musicals. Hardly anyone has seen it before, except Eddy and
Vinnie.

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I am not generally a fan of musicals, especially theatrical ones. I have never seen a Lloyd-Webber, and have nothing good to say about ‘Les Miserables’, or ‘Moulin Rouge’. However, there are some film musicals that I do like, and it is those I recommend here. Most, if not all are well known, so nothing to surprise the reader.

The Producers. This original 1968 version, written and directed by Mel Brooks, still makes me laugh 45 years later. The story is about an unscrupulous Broadway producer (Zero Mostel) duping old ladies into backing a production that is designed to be a failure; then all the backers lose their money, and the producers of the title clean up. At least that is the plan. He recruits a shy accountant (Gene Wilder) to fiddle the books, and buys a sure-fire disaster of a script from a Nazi fanatic, entitled ‘Springtime for…

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Some American Civil War films

Another film post reblog from 2013, this time on films about the American Civil War. I appreciate this is a very niche interest. 🙂

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Something that I have not previously mentioned, I have had a life long interest in the American Civil War. To be accurate, Civil Wars in general, though that will probably be the subject of another post, not in this category. When I was young, there was a television series, called ‘The Gray Ghost’. This was imported from the USA, and concerned the exploits of a Confederate irregular unit, led by the real life officer, Major Mosby. The issues surrounding the causes of the war, States’ rights, Industrialisation and immigration in the North, and the issue of slavery, were not really addressed of course, and it was all about the action. I later read a lot about this war, and carried on the interest into adulthood. Like many others, I favoured the Confederacy, though naturally not from a racist standpoint, more from admiration of the tactical skills of their generals, and…

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Some films about Art

Another film post from 2013 that hardly anyone has seen. This time it is about famous artists whose lives were filmed.

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You know the old  quote, ‘I don’t know much about Art, but I know what I like!’ Well, I only know a bit about Art, but quite a lot about films. Here are some suggestions that manage to combine the two, providing visual delights, exciting action, and some great acting in the process.

Caravaggio. Whatever you think of the controversial English film-maker, Derek Jarman, don’t let it put you off this 1986 work. Despite the quirky additions to the story, ( a typewriter in 17th Century Italy!) strong performances by a very good cast make this well-worth watching. The story of Carvaggio is told both on film, and by his paintings. His love interest, played by a younger Sean Bean, is an integral part of the plot also, with Bean taking hold of the film for the most part, and overshadowing Nigel Terry, in the lead role. What makes it…

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Some Historical films

One more 2013 film post that only Eddy and Roland commented on back then. Historical dramas this time. Something for everyone, I hope.

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Many films have been set in various Historical periods, or specific events in History. Since the silent days, and up to many of  the latest films of the past few years, History has provided rich ground for the inspiration of film makers everywhere. In my usual five film selection, I have tried my best to recommend lesser known films, and to avoid the obvious epics.

The War Lord. This film is getting on a bit, and it shows sometimes. Nevertheless, this 1965 production, starring Charlton Heston and Richard Boone, still has a lot to offer. Set at the beginning of the 11th Century, in Normandy, it tells the story of a Knight, rewarded for loyal service, with a bequest of lands, and a run-down small castle. The land is poor, and the local villagers resentful. Still, the Knight, and his accompanying soldiers, rebuild the old fortress, and begin to impose…

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Films that I don’t like

Another film post from 2013 that only Vinnie appears to have seen. More unpopular opinions from me about many much-loved films. As always, feel free to disagree.

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Having listed numerous films that I do like, in my tour around the World of Cinema, I thought it appropriate to also let you know about the types of film that I never watch, and just don’t like. These choices are unlikely to gain me many friends, but I will stand by them, and try my best to plead the case for the prosecution. No clips with these, as they are generic, not specific.

Comic Book Franchises. I do not refer to the recent trend for filming graphic novels, as seen in ‘Sin City’, and ‘300’. This is an entirely different subject, and I have some time for these efforts. In particular, I am launching my attack at the filming of the heroes of Marvel, and DC comics. The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Superman, Silver Surfer, Spider-Man, Captain America, and of course, Batman. There are many others, and you will no…

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Some Polish films

Yet another film reblog from 2013, this time featuring films from Poland. Only Eddy has seen this one before.

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Poland has a long tradition of film-making. Whilst not having a huge output, some of the films from this country are highly acclaimed, and many have won awards. On this list of recommendations, I have taken the liberty of including two films from the same short series, as I could not choose between them. I have deliberately left out the famous ‘Three Colours Trilogy’, as it is so well known, and also omitted anything by Roman Polanski, for the same reason. I will be doing another post on cinema from Eastern Europe, but felt that Poland had enough to offer on its own. Besides, I sort of owed it to Eddy Winko…

Europa Europa. Strictly speaking, this is a French/German/Polish co-production, but don’t be misled. It is in every sense a Polish film, about the experience of Polish-born Jews during the Second World war, and directed by a famous woman…

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Some uncomfortable films

Another 2013 film post. Only Eddy and my cousin have seen this one.

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I have to get straight in with a warning here. These films are described as uncomfortable, as this is the type of viewing experience you can expect. Some are downright nasty, and all will make you uneasy at some point, and you may even turn them off. They contain scenes of sexual violence, mass-murder, casual killings, and portrayals of madness. So, watch at your peril, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Why recommend them in that case? Despite the above disclaimers, I feel that they all have something to offer; about society, or war, or human endurance. Some are studio productions with a star cast, others made on a budget, with little-known actors. All are well-made, with performances of intensity, and sincerity, from all those involved. Without exception, none of them are feel-good films, and all will leave you with unpleasant memories. A lot like real life then…

Henry:…

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Some unusual films

I am reblogging this film post from 2013. Only Eddy and Sophie seem to have ever seen it, and it really does contain some great film recommendations.

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I use the term ‘unusual’ to define subject, plot, or treatment. This is subjective of course, and you may not agree. Most of these films will be familiar to avid film watchers, or those who might be called ‘film buffs’. They are not mainstream though, far from it, and at least four of them could justify the tag ‘Independent film’, with all that this implies. As always, I will stand by any film that I recommend, and suggest that you try something a little different. I have a long list of these, so more to come later.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle. This downbeat crime drama features screen tough guy Robert Mitchum, in one of his later starring roles. Made in 1973, when Hollywood was turning out much glossier fare, here we see a different side of America. The seedy heart of Boston, dilapidated buildings, run-down housing, and small-time crooks…

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