Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Slasher #1: My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Sunday Slasher: A weekly celebration of the best and the worst of the Slasher genre.

George Mihalka's 1981 Canadian slasher MY BLOODY VALENTINE is mostly remembered these days for supplying one of the most important bands of the past thirty years with their name, but to many kids who came of age in the early to mid eighties it is famous for being one of the most cut up and infamous horror films of their youth.
Hungarian born Mihalka was a complete unknown and had had very little film experience when he shot MY BLOODY VALENTINE in late 1980. He had previously only directed one feature, 1980's PICK-UP SUMMER and MY BLOODY VALENTINE simultaneously shows his inexperience and youthful energy.
The film, written by HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME collaborator John Beaird, follows the adventures of a group of small town Canadian kids who are attempting to have the towns first Valentine day dance since a crazed coal miner named Harry had went on a killing rampage years before. When human hearts start showing up in Valentine's day boxes, the towns overwhelmingly inept sheriff starts to think that perhaps a dance isn't the best idea, and that maybe Harry is back in business.

MY BLOODY VALENTINE fails on so many levels that it is hard to know where to begin, and yet in the last twenty minutes or so it does become genuinely suspenseful and for all its flaws, slightly enduring.
The positive aspects of MY BLOODY VALENTINE are pretty easy to point out. The Canadian location of Sydney Mines in Nova Scotia is very memorable and gives the film a much different feel from many of the slasher films of the period. Mihalka's direction isn't exactly inspired but he handles the film's killings well and like I said he does manage to build a sense of dread and excitement in the films final scenes. Rodney Gibbon's photography is also fairly good, specifically in the films darker moments where he uses a pretty simple but still effective lighting scheme that manages to be creepy but not overly done.
The film suffers from several beloved hallmarks of the genre, namely major lapses of logic, poor characterizations, bad acting, poor decision making and a trick ending you can guess less than halfway though. Looking past these obvious faults is pretty easy though in these films and it is still fun to watch, laugh at, or perhaps more importantly laugh with, and be scared by MY BLOODY VALENTINE...friends, beer and a late night are all recommended for maximum viewing pleasure though...

Of course none of the above matters as MY BLOODY VALENTINE is still one of the most cut slasher films in existence, and of course this is what has made it so legendary. Literally every killing scene was cut heavily by the ratings board, neutering what should have been the films most visceral and memorable moments into a bloodless series of confusing and at times incomprehensible shots. Perhaps only FRIDAY THE 13TH PART TWO was more damaged by the censor's scissors, but MY BLOODY VALENTINE is at least running a close second as the board literally ripped the heart out of the film.
The footage is said to still exist but unfortunately the film is the property of Paramount, a comany notorious for hating these movies and doing as little for them as possible. So it seems that the killer's unadulterated carnage can only be seen right now by those lucky enough to have grey market copies. As I was watching this recently with my girlfriend I mentioned that watching MY BLOODY VALENTINE like this was a bit like watching a sex film without the sex or a musical with no songs...it is really unfortunate that this film remains unrestored.

MY BLOODY VALENTINE opened in early 1981 to typically savage reviews and just okay box office. Thanks to magazines like Fangoria though, the cutting of the film became known almost immediately and because of this it became one of the most talked about slasher films of the eighties.
The influential Scottish band MY BLOODY VALENTINE, led by the Brian Wilson of his age Kevin Shields, took their name from the film in the mid eighties even though they had never seen it. Shields and collaborator Belinda Butcher were said to be simultaneously annoyed and amused when they finally saw the film on one of their early American tours, when they found it less than the masterpiece that they had hoped for.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE is currently available on a bare bones DVD from Paramount that features an okay Widescreen print but nothing else. All of the gore is still missing, so MY BLOODY VALENTINE is still one of the most skinless and bloodless slasher film of the period.
The film, despite its flaws is pretty beloved by fans of the genre who still yearn to see the missing footage. There is something almost quaint about the film now and it is hard for me to not be a bit nostalgic about it even though it is about as far away from being a good film as possible...one hopes that eventually a good uncut copy of the film will appear someday and that fans can finally put old Harry to rest.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Overlooked Classics: Full Circle (The Haunting Of Julia) 1977


Richard Loncraine's FULL CIRCLE (THE HAUNTING OF JULIA) is one of the most perfectly realized and executed genre films I have ever seen. From its striking and tragic opening scene to its jaw dropping final moment, FULL CIRCLE never once slips in its relatively brief 98 minute running time. It is a real masterpiece of style and class, and one of the great lost films of the seventies.
At the heart of FULL CIRCLE is a relatively simple and tragic story centering on a child's death and a mother's breakdown. Shelia Benson pointed out in her great original review that the film can be read as a study of a young woman slowly but surely losing her mind, or it can be taken as a superior ghost story. Either way, the film remains a very haunting exercise in loss, revenge and fear.
It is this sense of loss that occupies every frame of FULL CIRCLE that separates it from most films that fall into the thriller or horror genre. Mia Farrow's work as the lonely and isolated Julia is frankly astounding and Loncraine's long takes of her alone in her house or out walking are incredibly intimate. It is due to Loncraine's sensitive direction of Farrow that makes the film so incredibly resonate, and it works not only as a ghost story but as one of the great character studies in all of seventies genre cinema.
The film is remarkably singular on many levels. It is, on the one hand, a rather old fashioned and slow moving work that builds carefully and methodically. On the the other hand it is very much a film that only the late seventies could have produced, made by a group of young relatively inexperienced people who were obviously filled with invention and creativity.
While the film marks career bests for Loncraine, Farrow and composer Colin Towns, that shouldn't overshadow that much of its power is due to the cinematography by Peter Hannan, the editing of Ron Wiseman and the striking production design of Brian Morris.
Hannan had worked with Loncraine on his first film, 1975's FLAME and his work on FULL CIRCLE is really noteworthy. Even on the washed out VHS copy, you can see how beautifully photographed this film is. Hannan's striking, dreamlike work would serve him well on future projects with Loncraine as well as the legendary Nicolas Roeg. Editor Ron Wiseman, whose cutting gives FULL CIRCLE's more intense scenes a real sense of dread and power, had previously worked on the strange 1973 Canadian production THE PYX and his work here is really splendid. The seance sequence is handled extremely well in particular and much of its greatness stems from Wiseman's editorial skills.

Perhaps the most striking behind the scenes effort was given by production designer Brian Morris. Julia's house is especially memorable with its high ceilings, spiralling staircases and Gothic feel. Just look at the details Morris contributes to the work the next time you watch it, specifically how children's toys seem to be everywhere in the film. Morris would use this striking eye in later work with Loncraine and on memorably designed productions ranging from PINK FLOYD THE WALL to ANGEL HEART.
I have already written on Colin Towns incredible score and I will only reiterate that this is one of the great marriages between image and music and the soundtrack album is in bad need of reissuing, with the missing cues added on as a bonus.

Joining the magical Farrow is a very distinguished cast featuring some of the best British actors of the period. These include a young Tom Conti, a creepy Keir Dullea and a great Jill Bennett.
Young Samantha Gates, in her film debut, plays the ghostly Olivia incredibly well and it is unfortunate that she only appeared in a handful of films afterwards. Popular British actress Sophie Ward makes one of her first on screen appearances as Julia's daughter Kate, who tragically chokes to death in the films opening.
FULL CIRCLE seemed to be cursed distribution wise from the get go and it remains relatively little seen, despite being a favorite to many horror fans. Used copies of the full frame VHS version can be found on online, and I suspect that I am not the only one slightly in love with the flawed, fading print that is used on it with its soundtrack that sounds like a very scratchy record. I have often wondered what my experience would be seeing a proper widescreen dvd of it...a French DVD is available and while it does finally featuring widescreen print of the film it is unfortunately so dark that it is an eyesore to watch. FULL CIRCLE remains, much like the ghost Olivia, very much lost in time right now.

This wraps up my look at one of my favorite films...I hope that those reading the posts have enjoyed them and will take them all together as my review of the film, and not just the above rather short ended posting. It is a really splendid work that has haunted my dreams for more than two decades now. With LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH and LEMORA now on DVD, FULL CIRCLE remains to me the great lost English language genre films from the seventies...seek it out and submit to its power.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Critical Reactions #9 (The Moon In The Gutter)

I am still working on my main review of the film but I wanted to go ahead with my postings on THE MOON IN THE GUTTER, so I am starting with the critical reactions post.
The critics ranged from being not kind to downright nasty on Jean-Jacques Beineix's innovative and brave follow up to his successful DIVA. While a few seemed to accept the film on its own terms, something that is essential to do with this work, most fought it with everything they had. It seemed 1983 wasn't a good time for an ambiguous European art puzzle...one wonders what the reception would have been like ten years before or ten years later?

"Delirious...Too bad it isn't a homage to anything but Beineix's monumental self indulgence...a headlong plunge into sheer ludicrousness...unrestrained, and often near incoherent...silly and tedious...a gorgeous bore. Beineix wastes alot, an unusually warm and assured Kinski...lots of enticing seedy settings, part of an entire Surrealist world designed imaginatively by McConnico and sumptouusly photographed by Philippe Rousselot."
-Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times-

"THE MOON IN THE GUTTER sits up and begs for the brays of derision which greeted it an Cannes...with all its faults, THE MOON IN THE GUTTER shows a filmmaker straining every nerve to make a film."
-Tom Milne, Monthly Film Bulletin-

"Portentously and preposterously absurd...Beneix's studio marooned THE MOON IN THE GUTTER is bad enough to be almost relish able...Depardieu and Kinski are encouraged to move and react with the verge of somnambulists."
-John Coleman, New Statesman-

"unmitigated disaster...static and boring...Kinski seems to have forgotten everything she has learned about acting..."
-David Denby, New York-

"you will never come up with anything more idiotic than THE MOON IN THE GUTTER...load of rubbish...as the characters go mad, the audience does too...so contrive and obscure it seems to have been made by a man who was hallucinating...Kinski is hopelessly dazed and out of place, but isn't she always...the girl is a cabbage head...THE MOON IN THE GUTTER was unveiled this year in Cannes, where it was greeted with screams of rage, boos and audience insults."
-Rex Reed, New York Post-

"TESS Made Kinski famous. Her films since then have made her infamous. They've been beyond bad, fiasco's. It's as if she brought out the worst in those directors attracted to her...when a director was thinking his fuzziest, he thought Kinski...miasma of artifice...incoherent."
-Joseph Gelmis, Newsday-

"a big failure...mostly sill, still you can still see the great talent in Beineix."
-Jack Kroll, Newsday-

"If cinema were really a visual artform, THE MOON IN THE GUTTER would not deserve its rude reception. Where it fails disastrously is in the invisible structures of drama, narrative, psychology and sociology. It connects neither with its genre, nor with its audience."
-Andrew Sarris, Village Voice-

"a sumptuous, dazzlingly photographed melodrama that becomes, alas, relentlessly boring. It is all style and no heart, and the giveaway is that we never really care about the characters even though each one has a suitably tragic story...I emphasize that the movie is beautifully photographed because the visuals are really the only strength...I saw the film at this year's Cannes Film Festival where it really tried the patience of the audience. For its American release, the distributors have trimmed 11 minutes. Since the whole film is of a stylistic piece, that can only mean 11 minutes less of what was wrong in the first place."
-Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times-

"Coming right after Jean-Jacques Beineix's sparkling, gift-wrapped DIVA, this oppressive romantic tragedy, in which Gérard Depardieu plays a stevedore obsessed with memories of his dead sister, may be a shock, but it's the kind of excruciatingly silly movie that only a talented director can make. (Hacks don't leave common sense this far behind.) Beineix is celebrating the poetry of the movies, which for him is the poetry of artificiality. Nastassja Kinski is posed like Hedy Lamarr in ALGIERS; she's the unattainable-the moon that shines on poor Depardieu down there in his Brando T-shirt in the film noir gutter. The actors are helpless, because the movie isn't about their characters' emotions-it's about Beineix's swooning response to the earlier movie stars that they're standing in for. Beineix can sometimes engage us by his visual flourishes--abstractions of men at work, blood that's like spilled fingernail polish, a cathedral like a witch's palace. But it's a suffocating, empty movie in thick, nocturnal color, and with glamour music that's an exaggeration of Hollywood's old soaring and slurping scores--the kind that make you wince during revival showings."
-Pauline Kael, New Yorker-

"Beineix does manage to charge the affair with a sense of fierce anticipation; that aside, the film seems like an exercise in the non-development of narrative. In the end, though it's not the disaster the French press cracked it up to be, only the images stay in the memory as the Fabergé egg lies smashed on the floor, a pile of glittering fragments."
-Time Out-

"In general, David Goodis's noirish thrillers have inspired short black-and-white movies, but Beineix followed his successful debut with this long and lush adaptation of a 1953 crime novel stressing the somewhat surreal aspects of the writer's work. Extravagantly and audaciously, if not successfully, he shot the entire movie in a studio, encouraging cameraman Rousselot to put a high gloss on the murky story of a worker (Depardieu) obsessed with finding the rapist who drove his sister to suicide. The critics, including the French, rounded on Beineix, having heaped praise on his Diva."
-Channel 4-

"Yet another variation on the favoured Gallic filmic outsider-meets-babe fantasy. Almodovar, even Fassbinder, revisit Hollywood genres with evident irony-in-excess but with Beineix's try-hard exercise in style one's never sure whether its just not bad taste at work, for surely nothing this laboured can be taking the mickey out of anything, let alone itself. Depardieu looks like he's walked off the set of West Side Story, Natassia Kinski fulfils her usual eye-candy function and Victoria Abril is virtually unrecognisable under an 80s perm."
-Cinephilia-

"stylish but downbeat melodrama in which the adjectives “delirious” and “pretentious” sum up the movie correctly...The Moon in the Gutter is visually stunning. It was filmed in elaborate studio sets, mostly lighted by arcs and photo floods, with an elegiac music score by Gabriel Yared, in which the camera movement and choreographed gestures by the actors (call it Stand and Pose Method Acting) were sometimes used as a replacement for real character motivation or plot logic...The cast-particularly Kinski and Abril really rise above the film style and Beneix provides both actresses fantastic entrances: Kinski’s arrival to the café is hauntingly memorable and Abril’s scene on a swing is one of the most erotically charged sequences ever...The Moon in the Gutter may be indulgent and pretentious, but it's never banal or routine, it received uneven reviews on its initial release and won a French Cesar Award for its production design."
-Pablo Vargas, The Spinning Image-

What strikes me in looking at these reviews is the inability of almost anyone to concede that the very things they are criticising are exactly what Beneix was going for in his film. THE MOON IN THE GUTTER is very much a film about film, about artifice, about gloss, incoherence and dislocation. Ironically Rex Reed's complaining that it seemed the film was made by someone who was hallucinating is actually pretty dead on, but just not in the way Reed meant it.
The only type of films that inspire in me the kind of bile many of these 'critics' spat out in the above quotes are films that are lazy carbon copies of other films with no imagination, style or life of their own. THE MOON IN THE GUTTER is a raging, poetic film that is totally unique and alive. It baffles me that so much rage could be thrown at a work as unique as THE MOON IN THE GUTTER, but that is the way it goes a lot of the time. Just go back and check some of the original notices to LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD or BLADE RUNNER, or any other film that dared to sacrifice some of the things that complacent audiences and critics had to have spoon fed to them in order to appreciate their films.
Is THE MOON IN THE GUTTER flawed? Yes, but beautifully so...I would rather spend two disorienting hours with it than have any time with most of the so called 'experts' above that crucified it nearly twenty five years ago.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sheila Benson on Full Circle

Despite its power and obvious merits, FULL CIRCLE got very little critical attention when it was finally released in the United States in 1981 under the title THE HAUNTING OF JULIA.

One critic who did recognize it as a major work was Shelia Benson from the Los Angeles Times. Below are a few choice quotes from Benson's orginal July '81 review of the film:

"THE HAUNTING OF JULIA is the possibly the best use ever made of Mia Farrow's translucent, sel-absorbed delicacy, that waiflike exterior that sheathes, one suspects, steel-clad determination...it is a film of such elegance, authority and perfection of style that it's a surprise to learn that it was only British director Richard Loncraine's second dramatic feature...Farrow dominates the film...she amplifies these personal overtones in a beuatifully realized performance...the screenplay cleares up and simplifies Straub's rather underbrushy original novel...This is the 'other world' as it should be, and so rarely is...You have to be in tune with Loncraine's intent, his deliberatly unrushed pace and dark and dangerous corners. He has fashioned a work of enormous style, with character and intelligence...the film is breathtakingly beautiful..."

Benson wasn't the only one who admired the film. Here are two other short sections of original reactions...

"The film brings on the effects of the unseen with extreme power...Farrow's extraordinary...a genuinelly creepy experience..."
-Archer Winsten, New York Post-

"In a period where suspence films have become increasingly trashy and exploitative, it is nice to see one as classy as this..."
-Howard Kissel, Women's Wear Daily

Images Of Peter Straub's Julia


FULL CIRCLE started out life as a creep and pretty splendid early Peter Straub novel rom the mid seventies. The book was a major success upon its release, which makes the indifference surrounding the release of Loncraine's major film all the more mysterious.
While there are obviously major differences between the book and film, they actually compliment each other nicely and I highly recommend Straub's work to those reading.
Here are a few various images that have appeared on varous reprintings of the book throughout the past thirty years.

Peter Straub has a fantastic website that is located at this address:

http://www.peterstraub.net/home.html

Life Rotates In 45 Revolutions Per Minute (Colin Towns: Full Circle and Olivia)


This stunning 45 contains two of the most sublime moments in seventies experimental pop and should be seeked out by any fans of not only FULL CIRCLE, but British music in general.
The main selling point to this very rare 45 is that side A contains an otherwise unreleased edit of the unforgettable main theme from the film. While this edit is only a shadow of the original, it is still exceptionally powerful and is a worthwhile addition to Town's catalogue.
The b-side is the haunting OLIVIA, which is the same version as the album's take. This occasionally pops up on Ebay but, like the full album, is becoming harder and harder to find. A special edition release of the soundtrack would do well to feature this fine edit as one of the bonus tracks.

The Great Ones Volume Two (Side A Track Four) Mia Farrow


Sometime in the past couple of decades, the fact that Mia Farrow is one of our finest actors got lost. It happens to a lot of our greatest actors, what we think we know of their personal lives start to cloud the way we view their performances. It is a shame really because when one steps back and looks at the forty year plus career of Farrow, you see a body of work that is simply astonishing in its range, intelligence and power. This is a tribute to Mia Farrow the actress.
Mia made her acting debut at the age of fourteen in her father's 1959 production JOHN PAUL JONES. It was just a bit part though and few took note of it at the time. That would change five years later when Farrow would appear in the hugely popular television show PEYTON PLACE. While this didn't make Farrow a star, her lovely face and natural style immediately put her in the mind of anyone who saw her on the show.
A handful of roles on television and in film would follow for Mia, but no one could have predicted that a 1968 film by a relatively unknown Polish director would instantaneously catapult her into the spotlight as one of the most talked about and admired actresses of the sixties.
What can you say about Mia Farrow in ROSEMARY'S BABY? There are very few performances in the horror genre that even come close to the magnificent turn she gives as Rosemary Woodhouse. Polanski found in Farrow the perfect actress for his most popular film even though she wasn't the first choice. Farrow, like Faye Dunaway and a handful of others, owes much of her career to Tuesday Weld as ROSEMARY'S BABY was one of many high profile roles the combative actress turned down in this period. As much as I idolize Weld, Mia Farrow was made for Rosemary Woodhouse and her soft gamine looks, cropped hair and inventive acting style made her an instant icon and a world renowned star seemingly overnight.
The years following ROSEMARY'S BABY were prolific ones for Farrow even though none of her immediate follow up roles matched her work for Polanski. In this period she would manage to give several memorable performances in Joseph Losey's SECRET CEREMONY (1968), stealing the film from Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Yates JOHN AND MARY (1969), opposite Dustin Hoffman, and Richard Fleischer's 1971 thriller SEE NO EVIL.
While none of these films really captured the public attention, Farrow seemed to remain untouchable and her position as one of the country's biggest stars maintained itself. More roles would follow before Farrow would land one of her best parts in Claude Chabrol's memorable DOCTEUR POPAUL (1972). The film, released as HIGH HEELS in the States, is one of Chabrol's most underrated and Farrow is just great in it. The film, outside of giving her a chance to work with one of France's greatest directors, would also allow her to share scenes with both Jean-Paul Belmondo and the exquisite Laura Antonelli (at the height of her beauty and power here).
Mia would score big time next with the much talked about Fitzgerald adaptation THE GREAT GATSBY (1974). While the merits of Jack Clayton's film have been questioned there is no doubt that the coupling of Mia Farrow and Robert Redford wasn't a inspired one. The two are simply astonishing to look at in this film and Farrow brings a real humanity to Fitzgerald's Daisy Buchanan. The film turned out to be Farrow's biggest hit since the Polanski picture and it re-established her as a major box office draw.
Mia would drop mostly out of view in the couple of years following THE GREAT GATSBY but she would return in 1977 with a performance of unnerving power and intensity, a performance that rivaled her turn in ROSEMARY'S BABY as her finest.
FULL CIRCLE (THE HAUNTING OF JULIA) is unthinkable without Farrow. As the title character, who in the first scene watches her only child choke to death, Mia gives a complicated and fearless performance that is among my all time favorites. Looking just like she did as Rosemary Woodhouse ten years earlier, Farrow's Julia is an ambiguous and haunting creation that even after probably a dozen viewings never fails to move me or make me question what I am seeing. It is one of the great performances of the seventies and, along with ROSEMARY'S BABY and the later HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, is Farrow's finest moment.

FULL CIRCLE seemed to disappear before it even properly arrived and Farrow's moving performance was seen by a very select few. Her follow up films included Robert Altman's interesting THE WEDDING (1979) and the big budget disaster flicks AVALANCHE (1978) and HURRICANE (1979). After these roles Mia dropped out again for a few years and would resurface surprisingly in 1982 as the muse and lead actress to one of America's finest writers and directors.
So much bad blood and gossip has been passed around about Mia Farrow and Woody Allen that it has clouded the fact that for more than a decade these two delivered some of the finest work of either of their careers. Farrow worked almost exclusively for Allen between the years 1982-1992 and in that ten year stretch she delivered quality performance after performance that would cement her status as one of America's most diverse and finest actresses.

With the Woody Allen films, Farrow's icy Julia and Rosemary persona's disappeared and in their place came a warm and funny woman who exuded intelligence and style. The best of her work with Allen, 1985's THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO and the monumental features HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986) and CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989), are Woody Allen and Mia Farrow at their finest. How the Academy ignored Mia in HANNAH AND HER SISTERS is particularly beyond me, as it is harder to think of a more heartfelt and enduring performance from American cinema in the mid eighties.
The searing HUSBANDS AND WIVES in 1992 would mark the end of Mia Farrow's incredible professional collaboration with Woody Allen and she has only worked sporadically since. While she hasn't done anything in the past decade to equal her finest work, that is more of the fault of the films and not Mia Farrow. She remains one of the most talented and beautiful people on the planet and is still capable of turning in some of the freshest and most inventive work imaginable. Just look at the recent OMEN remake, a film that was notable for two things; its pointlessness and Farrow's scene stealing and powerful turn as Mrs. Baylock.

Mia Farrow is currently working on one of her most exciting projects in years, the upcoming film from ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND director Michel Gondry, BE KIND REWIND. The film is due out this January and one hopes that Gondry has given Farrow a role worthy of her considerable talents.
Two essential stops for Mia Farrow fans are located at:

http://www.miafarrow.org/

and

http://mia-farrow.com/

Dust Off Those Grooves (Chapter 16) Full Circle By Colin Towns


There is a line from the film PLAYING BY HEART that goes something like, "Talking about music is a bit like dancing about architecture" and that is a bit how I feel when it comes to writing on something like Colin Towns remarkable score for Richard Loncraine's FULL CIRCLE. This elusive album needs to be experienced and nothing I write can come close to capturing the astonishing music contained on it.
Outside of being one of the finest soundtrack albums ever released, Towns' work also stands as some of the most memorable electronic music of the seventies. I hold the best moments on FULL CIRCLE up with some of the work people like Eno, Popol Vuh, Mike Oldfield and Goblin were doing in this period, the album is that good.
Towns was born just a few years after World War Two in Britain and began taking piano lessons at a very young age. Throughout his late teens and twenties he would do a variety of session work before landing a spot in the Ian Gillian band. It was while working in Gillian's band that Towns began to work in his spare time on the themes that eventually wound up in FULL CIRCLE.
I am not sure how Loncraine and crew came across the relatively unknown Towns but a demo tape of Towns score ended up in the producers hands and once they heard the magnificent main title they knew they had found their composer, and Towns was commissioned for the full score.

Towns work on the film is simply astonishing and it is a prime example of how important music can be in a horror film. Saying that FULL CIRCLE wouldn't be as effective without Towns score is a massive understatement. The film is unimaginable without it in the same way that Carpenter's HALLOWEEN or Argento's SUSPIRIA would be without their respective scores.
The main thing that sells Town's score for me is the sense of loss in it. Towns perfectly encapsulates Mia Farrow's tragic Julia in this music, you can almost imagine that this is the music that is playing in her head throughout the film. No where is this more evident than in the stunning pieces that bookend the film, FULL CIRCLE: THE PARK and FULL CIRCLE: EVERYTHING'S RIGHT NOW. Julia's very sad but remarkable journey is perfectly captured in these two long and unforgettable tracks.

The album, which is one of the most exceptional releases of a year that included Bowie's LOW among many other career defining releases, starts off with THE PARK and it takes its grip immediately. THE PARK is probably Towns most famous creation and it has popped up on many ambient and electronic collections over the years. A ten minute plus tour de force of sound effects, inventive synthesizer work, distant voices and one of the most beautiful piano themes I have ever heard, THE PARK is the album's masterpiece and it is one of those rare pieces of music that I can play over and over again.
After the majesty of the opening track, Towns delivers the intense HAVE YOU GOT A MAGNIFICENT PROBLEM, one of the more frightening tracks on the album. A persistent and heavy piano solo signals this track as perhaps the darkest and most traditional track on the record and it leads directly into PRETTY MEN ARE VERY RECEPTIVE, a synth orchestrated piece that is my least favorite on the album; although it is still quite brilliant.
KATE, on the other hand, is a real favorite and contains some of the loveliest moments on the album. Highlighted by a sweet keyboard solo that merges some of THE PARK'S themes into it, KATE is a real highlight on the record. Even better is the one sung song on the album, the jaw dropping OLIVIA. Towns sings in an emotional and pleading style that matches the nostalgic and yearning tone of the song perfectly. The song, a meditation on the ghostly Olivia from the film, features one of the great moments in Towns career when just past the three minute mark, his vocals stop and one of his most inventive and moving synth solos suddenly appears and the song switches gears from a pop single into a dissonant mix of ghostly voices and echoes of a lost time.
OLIVIA is a bit hard to recover from but LOVE SCENE, with its striking flute solo, is a nice moment on the album and is one of the lightest. MAGNUS: THE UNWELCOME INTRUSION on the other hand is one of the most terrifying, a droning landscape that suddenly explodes into a chorus of bells that reminds one immediately of a similar effect Pink Floyd had used on DARK SIDE OF THE MOON a few years earlier.
Town's score concludes with FULL CIRCLE: EVERYTHING'S RIGHT NOW, a comapnion to THE PARK and nearly its sequel. The seven minute plus EVERYTHINGS RIGHT NOW starts out with a lovely nostalgic piano solo that sneakily drifts into a quiet version of the main theme before exploding into a slightly speeded up version of THE PARK. Anyone who has seen this film will remember this piece of music as it goes along with the film's final shot, one of the most iconic and unforgettable in all of horror.

Colin Towns' FULL CIRCLE is a major work and its current out of print status is unacceptable. Briefly available on cd in the mid nineties, copies of the album and disc fetch huge prices on Ebay and are very hard to track down. The album is in bad need of a re-release and re-appraisal, as much of the score still remains unreleased. Indeed one of the films key moments, the rainy drive home, and best pieces of music is nowhere to be found on the original lp or cd. For those who can't locate this towering and magical work, I would suggest doing a blog search as downloads often pop up. It is unfortunately the only way to hear this breathtaking and rather groundbreaking record right now.
A google search will also bring up TOwns official website as well as a comprehensive fan site. The man is one of the great unknown voices and composers in popular music, and FULL CIRCLE is his masterpiece.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Try Another World


Up next I will be taking a long look at one of Nastassja's greatest and most misunderstood achievements, the haunting and audacious MOON IN THE GUTTER (1983).
I will began my look at this unforgettable French feature in the next few days. I apologize again for the sporadic posting as of late and I thank those who are continuing to read.

Exposed: Odds and Ends


EXPOSED is a massively important film in Nastassja's career, a fact that makes its current unavailability all the more frustrating. It can be found on a bare bones DVD in Europe and used VHS copies are easy to come by here in the States. Hopefully a Region One disc will appear in America eventually.
Images from EXPOSED aren't easy to come by either online but posters and promo material pops up on Ebay occasionally. Also elusive is the fine Delerue score and a full soundtrack album would be most welcome as well.
The rather elusive EXPOSED is a must for all fans of Nastassja Kinski, James Toback and modern film in general. It is a flawed but defining work and deserves to be seen by more people.

James Toback: The Outsider


Highly recommended is the just released on DVD, JAMES TOBACK: THE OUTSIDER. This documentary on Toback is as strangely penetrating as the man's films themselves and it makes for compulsive viewing.
The film mostly focuses on Toback's brilliant and disturbing WHEN WILL I BE LOVED but EXPOSED is mentioned a few times and some widescreen clips of it are shown.
I highly recommend the disc for fans of Toback or for those just interested in him.

Shooting Kinski #12 (Helmut Newton)


To promote the release of EXPOSED in 1983, Playboy magazine ran one of the strangest pictorials in its history. The photo spread featured Nastassja, James Toback and a Marlene Dietrich doll. It was shot by the famed photographer Helmut Newton, and it was accompanied with text by Bruce Williamson and an interview with Toback.

While the shoot was disappointing and I have read that Nastassja later regretted it, I thought it was well worth pointing out for those interested. Here is the lovely cover (this particular one is the Japanese edition) and a couple of shots from the pictorial, a scan of the full article appears at Nastassja Kinski JP.

Nastassja On Exposed

Nastassja has not spoken much on EXPOSED since its release. This shouldn't take away from the fact that EXPOSED is one of Nastassja's great performances and the film is one of her most important.
Here are a few short quotes I found by Nastassja on the film, Nureyev, and Toback.

"I guess I've been a creature of the directors imagination. You see, I want to get a glimpse of his eyes searching out things inside of me. I want to go to hell and heaven for him. I want to make his dreams come true."

"This movie is why we're alive. It is why you were born and I was born. If we die when this movie is finished it won't matter, because this is it."

"EXPOSED is a film and an experience I truly love."

"Meeting Rudy was like a legend, like a ghost. Just to meet him, to watch him, to listen to him was great! He has grace and strength, a joy and music within. And he has also the most tremendous beauty and charm. We got along very well in a short time and had so much in common. It was strange. I can't put it into words. Think of a situation where you look at each other and don't even have to say anything or where there is meaning between the words. The music that happens between two people can be just unbelievable."

"I quite like EXPOSED and didn't think I would...I foresaw something bad...EXPOSED may not be perfect all over, but I liked it."

Nastassja On Ebay #2


Here is an item currently up on Ebay that I have never seen. It looks to be, I believe, an original Spanish one sheet for FOR YOUR LOVE ONLY. This has to be one of the least aesthetically pleasing Nastassja poster designs I have ever seen but its rarity certainly warrants posting here.

Artist and Muse #30


Roman Polanski directs Mia Farrow in the masterful and massively influential ROSEMARY'S BABY (1969). I have a sense of dread that Polanski's untouchable film will be the victim of a remake within the next few years. I hope I am wrong but with the recent HALLOWEEN re-working that is out, it seems like nothing is sacred.