|Issue 5 - May 1972|
ABC Cinema Haymarket, N/castle
I've only ever seen one good historical film: Peter Watkin's 'Culloden'. Charles Jarrott joins a long line of directors, including Clive Donner who directed 'Alfred the Great', who've missed the boat. Despite a 'star studded cast' (Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, Patrick McGoohan etc) the effect is totally boring.
Each of these actors are capable of giving good performances (Glenda Jackson in Ken Loach's 'The Music Lovers') which just goes to show that actors are little more than 'pieces of scenery' as Polanski would say, who are dependent on creative direction. As always in such films the dialogue is overloaded, lacking the qualities of the visual dimension which are needed to provide authenticity.
Religion is a constant thread throughout the film but never does any character convey genuine religious feeling. It seems that only when the works of guys like Shakespeare and Tolstoy are used as a basis for scripts is it likely that a good historical film will be produced.
Talking of Shakespeare: Polanski's latest film 'Macbeth' is a masterpiece (when is this guy going to make a bad film?). Photography is excellent, starting with the opening scenes of the witches on the huge expanse of wet sands, reflecting the cold light of dawn. A beautiful texture runs throughout the film; e.g. the preparations for the coming of Duncan to Macbeth's castle are a chaos of squealing pigs, bed making, spreading of straw, musicians rushing about with instruments. You can almost smell the blood, sweat and dirt.
The soundtrack, as always in Polanski's films, is very subtle and skilfully constructed, music provided by 'Third Ear Band'. Macbeth's fantasies when he revisits the witches and takes the potion is Polanski's most daring improvisation, but it comes off brilliantly. What more can I say? Go and see it.
Looking at the long list of personalities featured in 'Dynamite Chicken' I expected the worst: The Ace Trucking Company, Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Godfrey, John Lennon, Malcolm X etc etc. A kind of 'Pathe News' presentation of the USA in the 1970s.
Certainly you get a hell of a lot thrown at you and at first it seems that there isn't much discrimination going on, nor depth of comment. The film is a catalogue but it's a meaningful catalogue of happenings, world problems, technological insanities and the personalities who are involved in these happenings. Interspersed between the 'clippings' are some bloody good satirical and surreal sketches.
Maybe the pace of the film is a bit bewildering, perhaps it's frustrating to be presented with human situations without having any characters with whom you can identify. The words of Leonard Cohen's poetry really stood out: 'I wait for each one of you to confess'. The film didn't help the individual place himself in relationship to the insanity of USA. But 'Dynamite Chicken' is worth seeing more than once.
PS: It's funny.
If you've ever read any of Larry Nirven's other books, or stories you'll know the universe this is set in. Full of interesting diversions for your entertainment. This book reads like most of his stories. It's held together by the special effects. The only real character is Nessus, the mad puppeteer who hires two humans and a Kzin to explore the Ringworld, and part of this lies in his (hers? its?) continuity with the Soft Weapon, an earlier story.
However, this book is a good read. The special effects are second to none. The Ringworld is an artificial construct, a ring around a sun - like a ribbon, but a million miles across and six hundred million miles in circumference! Space enough here for a few hundred years of new books. So roll up, roll up, and read on to find out about Starseed Lures, Klemperer, Rosettes, Sunflowers, Slaver Stasis Fields, Domesticated Kzinti and the Great Explanation of all the book's strange events, the luck of Teela Brown.
Maybe it's not a good novel, but once you start it you'll be held. Explore the mysteries of the Universe! The science is good but not obtrusive, no long lectures. It could be a better book, no doubt, but still, try it.